Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Nurses have run DeKalb Medical’s Diagnostic Treatment Center since 1981
A unique, nurse-run diagnostic unit has been serving doctors and patients for 31 years at DeKalb Medical in Decatur.
“It started because our staff physicians wanted a place where their patients could go to have tests, minor procedures or IV treatment without having to go to the emergency room or operating room,” said Rebecca Swann, BSN, manager of DeKalb Medical’s Diagnostic Treatment Center. “Over the years, we have grown and continued to add services. Now we run an endoscopy lab and a clinic six days a week, and see more than 600 patients a month.”
Swann came to the center right out of nursing school 17 years ago. She had worked in the hospital’s emergency room as a nurse technician, so the variety of the work at the treatment center appealed to her.
“Like an emergency room, we never know what will come in the door,” Swann said. “We train our staff to work in both the endoscopy lab and in the clinic, which gives them versatile skills.”
She manages a team of 17 nurses, two secretaries and three technicians.
Neurologists, surgeons, oncologists, obstetric/gynocologists and other specialists at the hospital send their patients to the center for routine colonoscopies and other gastrointestinal endoscopy tests and procedures. They also send patients for sonograms and preparation for surgery, as well as for emergencies.
“When a patient calls her doctor to complain of pain or some other symptom, he’ll call us and order tests. By the time [the doctor] arrives, the labs and X-rays will have been completed, an IV inserted, if needed, and he can decide on the next step. If [the patient] needs to be admitted, we can handle the paperwork,” Swann said.
The center also serves recurring patients who need fluids, pulmonary treatments, blood transfusions or IV medications to treat multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and other conditions.
“We have one lady who has been coming here for IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin) infusions every six weeks for 17 years,” Swann said. “Oncology patients may need to come often for blood transfusions. We get to know them and their families well.”
Because of its diverse patient population, the center is a good training ground for nurses who want to work in the emergency department.
“You need solid clinical skills, excellent customer service skills and an ability to multitask to work here or the ER,” she said. “We like to take new nurse graduates who have high energy and are receptive to learning. If there’s some new procedure going on in the lab that no one’s ever seen, there will usually be a crowd watching and learning.”
One of Swann’s nurses, Beth Toenes, was voted 2012 preceptor of the year at DeKalb Medical for her work with new nurses and nursing students.
“They come here with good theoretical knowledge of nursing, but they don’t have the practical skills of putting in a Foley catheter, an IV or a PICC [peripherally inserted central catheter] line,” said Toenes, RN. “We can empower them to perform the practical side of nursing, and that gives them great confidence.”
A recent group of nursing students watched several endoscopic procedures, two blood transfusions and the delivery of IV iron, all before 11 a.m.
Toenes asserts that she fell into the “best job ever” in 1986. “I used to be the youngest, cutest and thinnest nurse here. That’s not the case anymore, but it doesn’t matter.”