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St. Luke's cafeteria cashier makes difference for patient, spouse with her kindness, actions

Helping a patient's spouse was just one example of Deb Kramer's caring demeanor.
By Chris Langrill, News and Community
April 9, 2024

Deb Kramer likes to go the extra mile. 

It could be easy for Kramer to just go about her job as a cashier in the cafeteria at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center.

The basics of her job are pretty straightforward, she says: “I meet a lot of people, answer questions, collect payments. I just do cashier-type things.”

But those who know Kramer and encounter her on a regular basis say she does a lot more than that.

Barbie Elliott, a nurse in neurology, looks forward to her regular visits with Kramer as she buys lunch in the cafeteria.

“Even though you might just spend a minute with her, she can change your entire day,” Elliott said.

Elliott recently learned that Kramer impacted more than just the day of a patient’s spouse in a significant way. Elliott nominated Kramer for a St. Luke’s Safety Hero Award after hearing the story, an award that Kramer has since received.

This past winter, Kramer was ringing up a customer when she struck up a quick conversation with a woman who was paying for her meal.

Deb Kramer, center, with St. Luke's team members, including St. Luke's President/CEO Chris Roth, far left.

“Her husband was a patient here, and I think he was transferred from Jerome,” Kramer said. “I’m a chatty person, so I just asked her, ‘Where are you staying when you’re here? Are you staying with family or friends?’”

The response from the patient’s spouse: “I’m just staying in my car.”

Kramer was having none of that.

“We had just had a snowstorm of about 6 inches,” Kramer said. “I just thought to myself, ‘Oh no, this older lady can’t be sleeping in her car.’ … I told her I was going to find somewhere for her to stay. And she got kind of weepy and teary when I was talking to her.”

Kramer eventually reached out to St. Luke’s social workers, who made sure the patient’s spouse would no longer be sleeping in her car while her husband received hospital care. Respecting the woman’s privacy, Kramer didn’t ask for further details. But she was relieved to hear that the outcome was a positive one.

While the interaction was especially meaningful for the patient’s spouse, Elliott said it was indicative of the impact that Kramer makes on a daily basis as the cafeteria’s customers come in contact with her. That’s why Elliott was moved to nominate Kramer for a Safety Hero Award.

“She makes my day and I appreciate it,” Elliott said. “I go back upstairs and try to make our patients smile. It’s like a contagious thing that she starts.

“Deb is amazing. People like her in our system make St. Luke’s a good place.”

Kramer has worked in the St. Luke’s cafeteria for a little more than a year.

Rick Holland, the director of Food and Nutrition Services, is happy Kramer joined his team.

“Since Deb started working with us it’s been clear that being compassionate is a huge part of who she is,” Holland said. “She interacts with hundreds of people a day … and has always been very intentional about helping anyone when she recognizes a need.

“It was no surprise when she jumped into action to provide help to a patient’s spouse when she learned that there was a need for support.”

About The Author

Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.