May 7-13 is National Hospital Week!
National Hospital Week is a time to honor and thank the countless hospital employees who work day in and day out to deliver compassionate care to the patients they serve.
When a lot of people think of hospital employees, doctors and nurses are the first two positions that come to mind. But hospitals employ a variety of people who play a critical role in nurturing patients back to health—from clinical dietitians and pharmacists to physical therapists and social workers.
To give you a glimpse of how these people fit into a hospital’s patient care team, Healthy Me PA spoke with four employees at Geisinger-Holy Spirit hospital in Camp Hill to learn what they love most about working with patients in their unique positions.
Because nutrition is a contributing factor to the healing process, hospitals employ clinical dietitians to monitor patients’ diets, assess their strength for receiving medical care, and keep them nourished throughout and after their stay.
Jodie R. Orwig, RDN, LDN, is a clinical nutrition manager who is responsible for making sure Holy Spirit patients eat well and receive proper nutrition during their stay. Her job begins before patients receive any medical care.
When a patient arrives in the hospital, a nutrition-focused physical exam to assess malnourishment determines potential risks and outcomes of a medical procedure.
Dietitians examine patients’ muscle/fat loss, inquire about home diets and weight history, and check skin for open wound healing to determine red flags. If someone is in need of nourishment, dietitians work to strengthen the patient’s nutritional health before a procedure begins.
“Surgery and medication won’t help without nutrition,” Orwig said.
Hospital clinical dietitians plan patients’ meals, accommodating any food preferences, in addition to monitoring patients’ progress. Dietitians work with all patients in the hospital, including those who need supplements and those who require tube feeding, to make sure they are receiving the necessary nutrients. There are few things hospital patients can control about their stay, but food is one that patients have a say in.
“Food is a big highlight to a patient sometimes,” Orwig said. “Food service is something they can count on.”
She said she loves working in the hospital’s team environment and collaborating to give patients a full scope of care.
“Seeing patients’ progress and good outcomes because of the work you do” is one of reasons she’s inspired by her work. She’s passionate about preventive care and getting others to change their lifestyles so they will not end up in the hospital.
“To be the best practitioner, you need to have the passion for what you do,” Orwig said.
In-house pharmacies at hospitals provide an advantage over the traditional store clinics: the ability to connect directly with nurses, doctors, and, most important, patients about their care.
Holy Spirit staff/clinical pharmacist Marcia Cohen said she has always been a social person, so interacting with patients in her role is fulfilling.
”My favorite part is talking to the patients and finding out more about the patient than their illness,” Cohen said.
As a staff pharmacist, she works closely with nurses and doctors to determine a patient’s drug dosages and frequencies, and to provide relevant drug information. Cohen even has the ability to enter a patient’s room to explain potential side effects of new drugs or provide counseling if the patient has questions.
“We work with nurses and physicians to make sure the patient receives the right drug, for the right reason, at the right time for each medication and IV they receive,” she said. “Our focus is on the patient and their care.”
When a patient leaves the hospital, the pharmacists leave their contact information so patients can call with follow-up questions. That interaction and ability to develop a personal connection is what Cohen says helps make a patient’s hospital stay a good experience.
Whether your stay is three days or a month, you will generally require some form of physical therapy before leaving the hospital, according to Holy Spirit Director of Rehab Services Chris Bodle.
Bodle oversees each area of Holy Spirit’s physical therapy services, including outpatient care provided at affiliated clinics. The physical therapy staff evaluates patients to determine the level of therapy they need, approve their discharge, or recommend a continuation of therapy at home or an outpatient facility.
The purpose of physical therapy is to mobilize patients so they can return home safely and live independently again.
Patients can receive one or more of the following types of therapy:
- Physical—assessing a patient’s ability to move, walk steps, etc.
- Occupational—assessing a patient’s ability to function in his or her home environment
- Speech—assessing the ability to speak, especially if the patient suffered a stroke
Physical therapists are involved in a patient’s care as soon as possible. For example, following a surgery, once a patient has enough strength, physical therapy begins to avoid blood clot development and stiffness.
At Holy Spirit, Bodle enjoys working with the hospital’s geriatric population the most.
“It’s inspiring to see how motivated geriatric patients are to become independent again,” he said.
Physical therapists sometimes work with people who are going through a devastating time in their lives, so providing care to help them regain their independence and seeing them not give up is what inspires him every day.
“You get to help them recover physically and mentally, too,” Bodle said.
Ashley Rehm, LSW, is a social worker who connects families in need to resources that will help maintain their care after their hospital stay.
Rehm is assigned to Holy Spirit’s birthing center, neonatal intensive care unit, and pediatric floors, where she meets with new mothers, expecting mothers and their families to secure resources that help with prenatal, pediatric, and financial needs at discharge.
As the social worker in the birthing center and NICU, she helps families learn about resources to address insurance and other related finances, determine eligibility to apply for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food services, purchase car seats and breast pumps, and secure clothing and shelter needs, among much more.
On the pediatric floors, Rehm assists with similar services and also recommends support to meet the needs of older children, such as insulin for children with Type 1 diabetes and mental health services for the adolescent population.
For Rehm, connecting families to programs and resources that will help them is one of the highlights of her job.
“I enjoy being able to provide resources to families who may not know they’re available to them,” she said.