They may not be doctors. They may not be nurses. They might not stitch you up or provide you with medication, but these non-medical staff members at our local hospitals provide behind-the-scenes support so vital that our hospitals couldn’t function without it. Let’s not forget how important these staff members are to the day-to-day operations of health care. We’ve highlighted some special team members here!
Department Secretary/Patient Advocate in Medical Imaging at Trident Hospital
In every hospital, you know that your meals arrive like clockwork – whether you’re ready for them or not. Did it ever occur to you that your doctors have to eat, too?
That’s how Semetta Williams began her hospital career, in food and nutrition, servicing the doctors’ lounge, where she “took care of the doctors and made sure they had everything they needed.”
Williams thoroughly enjoyed her time in food service, but, when a slot in medical imaging opened up, she saw it as “a great opportunity.”
In addition to handling paperwork and front desk work for the department, the Charleston native serves as a department secretary and patient advocate.
If you’re in need of an imaging test – CT scan, MRI, X-rays – she’s the upbeat worker who’ll escort you to the correct area of the hospital, answering any questions you might have about your procedure and “generally putting you at ease.”
“I try to find out about my patients, to see how they are doing. I also let them know about the amazing staff of physicians we have to take care of them. I want to make them feel comfortable and let them know they are in good hands,” she said.
Clearly, she’s very good at her job, as multiple awards, including her Trident Award, Gold Star Award and departmental Award of Excellence, attest.
“I don’t do what I do to get awards,” Williams said. “I do it because I love taking care of patients and their family members. I do what’s in my heart.”
Manager of Patient and Family-centered Care at the Medical University of South Carolina
Caroline Delongchamps grew up in Boca Raton, Florida, then attended the College of Charleston. Like so many students at that institution, she never left the Holy City.
“I wasn’t really interested in the medical field until my son suffered severe head trauma in an automobile accident,” she explained.
The boy was not expected to survive, but, after receiving care in MUSC’s pediatric intensive care unit, “he is a thriving 14-year-old today.”
Delongchamps’ experience with the hospital led her to volunteer in the children’s hospital and to serve on the Patient and Family Advisory Council.
“That’s when I got the health care bug,” she said. “I had the opportunity to travel to medical conferences across the country to learn about the many aspects of patient and family-centered care.”
“You might say that I became a ‘health care stalker,’” she added with a smile.
MUSC initially hired her to work in the children’s hospital, taking care of patients’ families. However, today she is manager of patient and family-centered care and reports to the chief quality officer. She heads her own department, working with doctors, nurses and administrative staff, teaching the importance of partnering with patients and families to improve the quality of care that MUSC provides.
Patient and family-centered care is her passion. She is particularly pleased with the role she played in helping another mother working with the clinical staff build private rooms for all of the ICU patients in the new Children’s Hospital and Women’s Pavilion. She is very proud of MUSC’s commitment to “patients and families first,” which is illustrated by the hospital’s willingness to partner with patients and families in building design, as well as quality and safety efforts.
“I’ve been invited to be the commencement speaker for MUSC’s 2019 graduation,” she said. “I believe that’s a sign that when the hospital says it’s committed to patient and family-centered first, they really mean it.”
Supervisor in the Environmental Services Department at Roper St. Francis Hospital
Native Charlestonian Michelle White loves her job as a supervisor in the environmental services department at Roper St. Francis Hospital downtown. In fact, she loves it so much that she joined the hospital staff 25 years ago and stuck with it through raising three children and welcoming her first grandchild.
What first appealed to her about a job in the health care field?
“Caring,” she said. “I’ve always been someone who likes taking care of other people.”
In case environmental services conjures images of people planting trees, worrying about melting glaciers or marching to preserve the dolphin habitat, think again.
Picture your last hospital stay, when used tissues piled up in your wastebasket, your bed linens started to smell a little funky and those gorgeous flowers your friends and relatives brought to cheer you up started to droop and shed their petals.
That’s the environment White and her staff service each and every day.
Keeping patients’ rooms, offices, departments and other secondary areas around the hospital spotless and properly maintained is their No. 1 job. They clean your room, empty those overflowing wastebaskets, make sure your linens are clean and handle a host of other housekeeping details with skill and care and without disrupting the important work of the hospital’s doctors and nurses.
In White’s view, the best part of her job is customer service.
“I’m happy when the patients and their family members are happy. It’s a really good job, and I enjoy knowing that I’m going to be able to provide some care for patients who need it.”
It’s the work of people such as White and her colleagues that in no small part is responsible for Roper St. Francis Hospital having earned the highest rating – five stars – from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Chief for Patient Administration Services at Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center
Not surprisingly, a key player in any veteran’s quest for medical care at the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center is a veteran himself.
A married father of three, the section chief for patient administration services, Travis Silver, served for five years on active duty as a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman and three years in the Navy Reserve.
Today, Silver is responsible for assisting veterans from their first contact with the VA, helping them enroll and coordinating care between departments among numerous other administrative functions.
“Assisting veterans with obtaining medical care in a timely fashion is a job I take very seriously,” Silver said. “Sometimes, it can be a matter of life and death.”
Evidently this approach is working. Recent statistics for Charleston’s VA facility show that more than 90% of enrolled veterans get their needed appointments within 30 days.
“For me,” Silver added, “the call to serve is very strong. One of the main reasons I joined the military was service. My working with the VA is an extension of that.”
Another reason for his commitment stemmed from his experience when his mother was diagnosed with an inoperable and ultimately fatal brain tumor.
“The quality of care she received during her final months helped convince me that I made the right decision in entering the health care field. I strive to help veterans achieve that same level of care, ensuring they are provided with every possible needed medical treatment and making them aware of all the benefits that are available to them.”
In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Silver maintains an open-door policy, encouraging any staff members with problems addressing a veteran’s issues to bring their questions to him directly for his counsel.
Technician at East Cooper Medical Center
At East Cooper Medical Center, when something physical or mechanical around the hospital breaks down or is in need of repair, they don’t “call Ghostbusters” – they call Larry Betz.
Betz is a technician 3 at East Cooper, with a staff of two other technicians working under his direction – and he’s tasked with “doing anything that helps make the building run.”
One of the aspects of his job that he likes best is its variety.
“I have no desire to leave my profession and one of the reasons is that I don’t do the same things day in and day out,” he said.
Those jobs can range from keeping East Cooper’s HVAC heating and air conditioning systems working optimally to making sure the boilers are operating, overseeing the hospital’s electrical power, running the fire pumps and even installing wall brackets to mount television sets.
A 15-year veteran at East Cooper, Betz came aboard as a painter after completing his service in the Army. Because of his mechanical skills and willingness to tackle problems head-on, he quickly moved up to his current position.
Born in Ohio, Betz lived in Florida until beginning his military career. His final posting was to Charleston, and he settled down with his family in Ladson.
When he’s not on the job at the hospital, he keeps busy with a wide range of projects in his spacious home workshop, where he works with woods and metals and has, among other things, built two 3D printers on his own.
“I’m good with my hands,” he said, “and I’m just not the kind of guy who sits around doing nothing.”
By Bill Farley