Outstanding care at the Heart of the Hutch

Fred Hutch employees focus on delivering compassion along with top-notch clinical care
Fred Hutch employee smiles as they sit at front reception desk.
Shane Hoffmann embraces the role of "head cheerleader" for Fred Hutch, greeting patients at the front desk of Building 1. Photo courtesy of Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Shane Hoffmann acts as 'ray of sunshine in a very dark time and place' 

Shane Hoffmann, the flamboyant blonde in the pink bowtie, is the first person that patients encounter when they enter the lobby of the original South Lake Union clinic building. Patients often refer to Hoffmann as the “face of Fred Hutch,” but Hoffmann prefers the term “head cheerleader.”

“I’m a little overbubbly,” they said. “The job brings that out in me.”

As patient service representative, Hoffmann sees their role as an enthusiastic and empathic concierge. They direct patients to their appointments, answer the phone, give directions and offer recommendations for where to grab a bite to eat or go for a walk to calm patients’ nerves.

“It’s easy to see in someone’s face when I’ve had an impact,” said Hoffmann.  

One interaction in particular stands out. A patient showed up for her first appointment to the wrong location. She was crying, and Hoffmann listened to her, then set her up with a shuttle that would take her to her intended destination. Afterward, she swung back by the front desk to thank Hoffmann for reassuring her and calming her down. “She said she was fully composed by the time she reached her appointment,” Hoffmann said. “Now every time she is back in the clinic, she makes a point to come by and say hello.”

Hoffmann understands the need for empathy from personal experience. Hoffmann’s sister had multiple surgeries as a child, and Hoffmann watched as the weight of caregiving fell to his mother. "When you see someone who’s your best friend constantly crumbling, it makes you want to make sure other people don’t feel that way,” said Hoffmann. “I don't need to know exactly why someone is at Fred Hutch to know why they are at Fred Hutch. I know they’re dealing with cancer in some way, and I see it as my role to listen and connect with them, to acknowledge them as human and make things less confusing for them."

Patients have noticed; Hoffmann’s positive attitude was highlighted recently in The Seattle Times’ “Rave” section:

RAVE to the front desk manager for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Building 1. They have a smile for every patient and family member who walks through the door, and they know the “regulars” by name. Dealing with sad, scared cancer patients and their loved ones can’t be easy, and they are a fabulous ray of sunshine in a very dark time and place. They give directions, answer questions and soothe the weary and worried, all without missing a beat. It’s like watching an air traffic controller or a symphony conductor!

That recognition resulted in Hoffmann — who spreads cheer from the front desk dressed in vibrant colors and bold patterns — being named the first recipient of Fred Hutch’s newly established Service Excellence award, which recognizes employees who excel at putting patients first. 

To promote that mindset, all clinical operations staff are expected to complete a new 90-minute training, Approach to Service Excellence 101, by early 2024. Hoffmann, not surprisingly, has been tapped as a substitute teacher. 

— by Bonnie Rochman

Fred Hutch employee Shane Hoffman received the Hope Award in recognition of their excellent service.
Fred Hutch employee Shane Hoffman was the inaugural receipient of the Hope Award for service excellence. Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

About our Heart of the Hutch series

We have been profiling people who illustrate the culture and spirit of Fred Hutch with the Heart of the Hutch series. This edition focuses on our outstanding clinicians and patient-facing staff.

This series highlights just a few of the thousands of the members of the Fred Hutch community who are the Heart of the Hutch

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