Focus on the people in patient care

September 15, 2008

People, whether they are the patients, co-workers, or just a stranger re-affirm why some people are still in the field of patient care. They give the opportunity to "care."

Key Points

It may arise either in the clinic proper or in the office and can occur in a number of different ways. Unfortunately, because we all live in such a fast-paced world, those gifts are often missed because we don't take the time to stop and recognize them for what they truly are.

And just what are they? People. Whether they are the patients I am talking to in the exam room, co-workers, or just some stranger that sits next to me at the lunch counter and enters my life for 20 minutes, they re-affirm why I am still-after more than 30 years-in the field of patient care. They give me an opportunity to care.

I was in my early 20s and a newly minted COMT. I worked in a trauma clinic with three other techs and we saw 110 people a day. We saw everything from scheduled patients to walk ins. We saw them all. Two staff doctors and two residents, and "we saved sight" all day long. We were amazing-all you had to do was ask us and we would tell you. The rest of the office was capable as well-you know, the back desk, and the coders, and the secretaries-but we were the team. Or, at least that is what my 20-something brain told myself over and over. Between me and the residents, some days it was difficult passing each other in the halls because of the over-exerted egos we had. And we were the hardest workers. No one in the clinic worked harder than the techs and the residents. Everyone else had it easy.

A foreign world

At least 50 times a day, I would grab a chart and push through the door that separated the clinic and the waiting area to go get another patient. It was always a totally different world out there in the waiting room. Every time the door would open all the heads would come up. Chairs would be filled to capacity, kids lying on the floor coloring, wheelchairs in the "parking area" right by the front reception desk, and the waiting room TV was always tuned to "The Price Is Right."

I was always self-conscious out there-it was a foreign world to me, and to be quite honest, a scary world. From time to time, there would be fights, yelling, and even shoving contests for the last coffee cup. This front waiting area was often organized chaos.

I would find my patients and literally run ahead of them, through the clinic door, to the safety of the back office.

'My Nettie'

There was a woman who ran the front desk. That would be "my Nettie." She registered those 110 patients a day all by herself. That was 110 charts that needed to have five pages stamped for each patient, co-pays to be collected, future appointments to be made while those 110 patients were exiting the clinic-oh, and by the way, make sure the phone was answered in less than three rings for good customer service. Unflappable, she did all those things. And when the door would open and a tech would come out to get a patient, she would look up and smile.

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