Fast on Their Feet Holyoke’s Patient Care Technicians Have to Move Quickly

What’s the most crucial piece of equipment for a medical professional? In Christopher Martin’s case, it may be a good pair of running shoes.

Martin said running shoes come in handy for him as a patient care technician at Holyoke Medical Center. Fellow PCTs Karen Proper and Jessica McCannon agreed, saying they don’t know how they would do their jobs without them.

“You’re always running, and there’s always something to do when you’re on this team,” said Martin, swiftly ducking out of an interview when his pager beeped.

Holyoke’s patient care technicians are on call during their entire full- and part-time shifts. They’re responsible for all inpatient blood draws; routine EKGs; inpatient transportation from one department to another; equipment managing, retrieving, and safety; and working in respiratory therapy — always on the go helping patients get what their doctors ordered in a timely and efficient fashion.

It’s a busy job, but a satisfying one that takes them anywhere those comfortable sneakers will carry them.

Direct Care

Holyoke’s current crop of patient care technicians is the hospital’s first. PCTs work with physicians and other medical professionals, but often spend more time with patients than doctors and even nurses are able to. That makes them an important liaison, especially in detecting developing problems with a patient’s recovery.

“It’s really satisfying because you get to do a lot of direct patient care. That’s the part most of us enjoy the most,” said Proper, who has worked at HMC for two and half years.

“The PCT program is wonderful. It’s beneficial not only to the staff here in the hospital, but most importantly to the patients,” said PCT and 5-year HMC staffer Steven Grindle. “We work as a team. We get to know each other, what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are. We’re able to take a lot off the nurses’ shoulders by helping them. It’s our job to get them the most current info.”

Holyoke’s patient care technician program was made possible through a $72,066 grant from the Baystate Works Initiative, administered through the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County Inc. (REB). The grant was used for staff salaries for allied health educators and for the educational materials used in the learning process.

“This patient care training program is a perfect example of the kind of public/private partnership that needs to be in place to train employees in career ladder positions,” said Bill Ward, executive director of REB. “Through this, they can meet the changing needs of patients as well as advance their own careers.”

The program streamlines routine inpatient care at HMC by allocating duties typically performed by several technicians in several departments to one or two PCTs per hospital shift, according to Director of Nursing Helen Arnold.

“This program has increased the quality of care on all of the specific units,” she said. “Each unit has a PCT assigned from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. It is all done in a unified fashion. It saves a lot of time and a lot of energy, and definitely increases the quality of care for each and every patient on the unit.”

Busy Day

Arnold praised PCT Supervisor Claire Tyminski, a registered nurse and Springfield Technical Community College professor, for her dedication to training the PCTs, who came from diverse backgrounds and are now certified lab technicians working toward their national certifications.

Every day, PCTs are assigned to inpatient floors or departments, and Tyminski hand-delivers their beeper numbers to the switchboard, the Laboratory, Radiology, EKG, and all other hospital departments who might need them during the day.

At 4:45 a.m., PCTs review paperwork for the day’s patients. At 5 a.m. they begin drawing blood, and at 6:30 a.m. they order EKGs. At 7 a.m. they begin transporting patients within the hospital for scheduled appointments and tests.

Throughout the day, they answer their pagers every time they beep and quickly respond to whatever situation requires their attention.

“Multi-tasking is an essential part of the job, as is good communication,” Tyminski said. “I’m very proud of what these people have accomplished. This is not an easy job, and they are always on the go.”

The PCTs at HMC graduated from the training program this past summer, and Tyminski and Arnold lauded their enthusiasm, their willingness to learn new skills quickly, and the high level of responsibility they undertake daily.

“It’s very impressive, what these technicians, from many different backgrounds, have learned,” Arnold said. “They work so well as a team.”

As Martin can attest, of course, they work even better with the right shoes.