• Article
  • May 12, 2020

Hospital-Based Convenience Store Supports Staff, Patient Families During COVID-19

With the help of 7-Eleven, Children's Health set up an on-site convenience store to help staff and patient families secure essentials, comfort food during pandemic.

7-Eleven helped Children’s Health get the pop-up store up and running quickly.
7-Eleven helped Children’s Health get the pop-up store up and running quickly.

Sometimes little things can mean a lot.

A mom buying bread and peanut butter for her kids is typically mundane, but it can take on new meaning when she's shopping at a pop-up convenience store situated in a children's hospital during a pandemic.

"Getting simple essential items without leaving our premises enables families to do some normal family things—like just being able to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," says Keri Kaiser, senior vice president, chief experience and marketing officer at Children's Health in Dallas. "It helps them feel like they're getting a little bit of 'normal' back."

On-site store provides important service for staff, families

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began to spread rapidly across the U.S., Kaiser and her team realized a pop-up store at Children's Health could not only help families safely share some "normal" experiences but also could provide an important service for its staff and patient families.

Health care workers—already under the pressure of providing care amidst a pandemic—wouldn't have to worry about scouring empty store shelves for basic supplies and groceries. Family members caring for sick children at the hospital could obtain essential items without risking exposure in a crowded store.

The idea was sound, but Kaiser knew Children's Health would need help executing on it quickly—so she made a call to the nearby headquarters of 7-Eleven. "We could have tried to cobble this together on our own, but we felt that would have put undue stress on our supply chain and food services folks," Kaiser says. "We're very grateful to be able to leverage 7-Eleven's supply chain."

Store design caters to hospital's needs

A Children’s Health employee shops at the convenience store.
A Children’s Health employee shops at the convenience store.

With 7-Eleven's help, Children's Health was able to open the first-of-its-kind pop-up convenience store at its flagship hospital in Dallas in less than two weeks. The store features grocery and personal care products with a focus on maintaining a supply of items that have proven scarce during the pandemic—including toilet paper, baby products and hand sanitizer.

Those staples have been popular with staff and family members—as have some comfort food items. "We've gone through a lot of pints of ice cream," Kaiser says. "When you're anxious, ice cream makes you feel better."

In setting up shop, Children's Health focused on design elements that would ensure a safe and convenient way for hospital staff and patient families to stock up on the essentials:

  • Payment. In addition to traditional debit/credit checkout, the pop-up store allows hospital staff to use their employee badges to pay for merchandise. "That's really important—it's their normal process," Kaiser says. "Using the badge was not only more convenient for the employees but also safer because they're not handling money."
  • Hours. The hospital established operating hours to accommodate all three employee shifts while still allowing ample time for thorough cleaning during off hours.
  • Delivery. 7-Eleven is coordinating delivery services for Children's Health staff at its two other hospitals—Children's Medical Center Plano and Our Children's House in Dallas. Food services staff at those locations can hold perishable items for employees to retrieve at the end of their shifts.

Service may continue beyond pandemic

The store is currently located in a space typically used for large meetings and gatherings—Moore Auditorium at Children's Medical Center Dallas. Although the pop-up store is temporary—the auditorium will eventually host large gatherings again—the hospital-based convenience store may not go away. Kaiser says Children's Health's leadership is looking at options to house a permanent store onsite.

"What we're hearing from our colleagues—and especially from our families—is this is something that really transforms the experience for them," Kaiser says. "What we originally thought was just a quick answer to COVID-19 needs has shown us this might be something we should offer beyond the pandemic."

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