When a flower bouquet addressed to a patient arrived at the Brigham’s Central Receiving loading dock at 89 Fenwood Road one morning, Receiving and Distribution staff did what they normally do: They contacted Patient and Family Relations to locate the recipient’s room and complete the delivery. What came next wasn’t exactly a typical situation for the team, but it perfectly illustrated the care and commitment they demonstrate each day.
After discovering that the patient had already been discharged, Christopher Shields, supervisor of Receiving and Distribution, called the sender to notify her about the delivery issue. She was a close relative of the patient and lived across the country. Upon learning her family member wouldn’t receive the bouquet, the woman burst into tears.
Alex Bonilla, a materials handler who primarily supports Operating Room shipments, immediately volunteered to deliver the flowers to the patient’s house, with their permission, on his way home from work.
“Hearing how upset she was on the phone was enough to bring a tear to my eye,” Shields recalled. “Alex said, ‘Give it to me. I’ll make sure it gets there.’ I see that kind of dedication in my team every day. They know the urgency of delivering packages, whether it’s a cardiac implant, imaging disk or flowers. No package is unimportant because it might make a difference in someone’s quality of care or lift their spirits.”
Where Everyone Has Your Back
Part of Materials Management, Receiving and Distribution oversees the Brigham’s five loading docks to ensure everything delivered to the hospital arrives safely and soundly. While the team is always busy — receiving up to 1,200 packages daily — they function like a well-oiled machine.
Staff work in concert to unload packages from delivery trucks, verify each box’s contents match its packing slip and catalog every parcel in an online tracking system before delivering them to recipients. From office supplies to zebrafish to surgical implants, everything addressed to Brigham passes through the team’s meticulous system.
“I don’t think people understand how much we move and how fast we move it,” Bonilla said. “We always help each other, and it feels great to know the whole team is working together and has your back.”
The department’s swift pace and high volume make it especially important that employees ordering supplies fill out shipping forms in detail by including their name and location or department, Shields said.
In some cases, a package arriving at sunrise contains medical supplies needed for a surgery or procedure taking place a few hours later. For these time-sensitive orders, loading dock staff work closely with clinical teams to provide real-time updates and expedited delivery.
“I tell my team regularly to picture that a member of their family is in the hospital and they’re depending on this package being delivered on time, in good condition and to the right location,” Shields said. “We’re not just delivering boxes. What we do counts.”
Greg Johnson, a materials handler serving the Hale Building for Transformative Medicine loading dock, agreed that the team’s camaraderie and shared commitment are important parts of their culture.
“It’s a great group of people,” said Johnson, who worked in other areas of Materials Management for a decade before joining Receiving and Distribution two years ago. “They’re a big part of why I have worked here as long as I have.”
‘I Want to Do the Same for Them’
In addition to taking pride in his team, Shields said he has tremendous respect for the Brigham researchers, care providers and other staff working to advance the hospital’s mission. In his few moments of spare time during the day, he enjoys reading about the Brigham labs and clinics receiving the packages his team delivers — a curiosity that led him to learn about orthopaedic investigators studying Mexican salamanders to explore limb regeneration and neuroscientists searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
“These are probably some of the most dedicated people you’ll see in your life,” Shields said. “You just feel their sense of commitment to patient care and research at all costs.”
Bonilla also said he’s grateful to be part of a community that cares so deeply, insisting his unexpected flower delivery was a small gesture.
“I’ve been hospitalized here before, and the staff always make you feel cared for and comfortable,” he said. “I want to do the same for them and any patient to give them the best experience.”
“Behind the Scenes at the Brigham” is a monthly series that provides a glimpse of the people whose everyday contributions help make the Brigham a world-class institution. Is there a team you’d like to see featured? Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.