By K. Richard Douglas
Members of the HTM department are, from left to right, Derek Wilsey, Bill Shaffer, Matthew Kenney and Vince Simmons.
If you started out in Augusta, Georgia and headed northeast, you would very soon come upon Aiken, South Carolina. The two cities sit very close together; just a little more than a half-hour drive. They are separated by a state line, but little distance. The city of Aiken has the atmosphere of a quaint town with tree-lined streets and a sense of history. It was established before the Civil War. The equestrian culture is present in this city today and you can catch a steeplechase or a music festival in the city.
The local hospital has a long history. Aiken Regional Medical Centers opened its doors in 1917. Today, the hospital is ranked as one of the top hospitals in South Carolina and is a subsidiary of Universal Health Services. (UHS). The hospital provides services to the people of Aiken, Barnwell and Edgefield counties.
Aiken Regional is a 273-bed facility. The Aiken Regional Medical Centers Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) team manages the hospital’s medical equipment along with the equipment in over 20 doctor offices and clinics and a coastal behavioral hospital.
The HTM department accomplishes all of this with a director and three Medical Systems Equipment Technicians (MSET).
The team’s director is Matthew Kenney, CHTM. Other members are Bill Shaffer, senior MSET; Derek Wilsey, MSET; and Vince Simmons, MSET. “We are responsible for all things with medical equipment; from the service of the CT/MRI to the stretchers and everything in-between. We take care of the scope repairs along with all accessories needed for equipment. We are an in-house program,” Kenney says.
Each member of the small team has specialized knowledge to allow them the ability to manage all equipment in-house.
Shaffer has anesthesia/ventilator training, contrast injector training and sterilizer training. Wilsey has injector training, ultrasound training, infusion pump training and hospital bed training. Simmons has RSTI Phase 1 training and will be starting to ramp up a lot more imaging training very soon, according to Kenney. The team tries to keep service contracts to a minimum.
“We handle all service calls on equipment that is under contract and act as the lead in getting those items repaired. We also take care of all of the doctor’s offices in our network along with a behavioral hospital two hours away. We order equipment accessories, with our goal of capturing all equipment expenses,” Kenney says.
How Can I Help?
With a four-member department, any special projects can present a real challenge. Yet, the department has handled these types of projects in stride.
“We have had several monitor upgrades that the department has been through along with major recall projects like Alaris IV pumps that took all hands on deck,” Kenney says.
He says that the monitor upgrade was for the ICU and ER.
“With the ICU, we had to deal with a full patient load. We had to coordinate the exchange of monitors with nursing to ensure we were able to monitor all patients continuously. This was accomplished by having several meetings, and with biomed’s support, we were able to fully swap them out all while taking care of the patients. We went room by room and didn’t move on till that room was completed and fully checked out. It made the process go flawlessly. We also worked together with GE to ensure it went smoothly; same with the ER,” Kenney says.
The team also pitches in during more challenging times when patient loads increase.
“During the winter months our hospital, like many others, gets very busy with flu season and such. During those times my staff steps up to the plate and we help out wherever we can,” Kenney says.
He says that can include transporting beds and stretchers to places that they are needed or helping housekeeping clean rooms and take out the trash.
“We gather unused equipment and redistribute it to those areas that are needing it most. I am very proud of my team’s attitude and drive. They never complain when given a task because they understand the important role, that as HTM professionals, we play in ensuring our patients receive the best care. It does not stop with only ensuring the equipment is safe to use, it stops with patients getting well and going home and having the best experience while they are here,” Kenney says.
He says that anything the team can do to help accomplish that or help take something off a nurse’s plate, they are happy to do it.
“I have instilled my philosophy of ‘there is no such thing as not my job’ and instead it’s ‘how can I help,’” he says.
The HTM team is also always prepared to problem solve when needed.
“We talk about it as a group and then make decisions that are beneficial for everyone. We try to educate staff as much as possible. We never tell a department it’s not our job or problem. We assess and then redistribute if necessary. The nursing staff has an important job to do taking care of patients. They just want their equipment fixed. We always lend our expertise to fellow departments, whether it is an IT issue or engineering,” Kenney says.
Some examples of this approach include the need to change to new PACS in the radiology department.
“We were tasked with helping a new PACS coordinator to set up all the machines with the new AE titles and IP addresses. I was short-staffed and did not have anyone trained to deal with PACS or imaging. I asked my youngest tech Vince to take on the task, which he did willingly. He worked with each vendor and the PACS vendor and was able to be a huge help to the radiology department. Vince was recognized several times by the rad department for his outstanding work with this project and issues. I have since sent Vince to schooling for imaging equipment repair and will be ramping it up even more in the next year, including more detailed PACS training. This was a direct result of his drive and ability to take the problem head-on. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him,” Kenney says.
Another issue that the department helped in resolving was with stretcher repair.
“When we first went in-house, the stretchers were being repaired by engineering. However, they had a backlog of repairs and didn’t have enough staff to keep up. Since we were already doing the beds, I volunteered HTM to take these repairs on. The result was a huge success. Stretchers are being repaired much quicker and more efficiently. More importantly, engineering was happy to have them off their plate and that time freed up for other important issues,” Kenney says.
Kenney says that the team has a great support system from UHS corporate to the local administration.
“They have fully bought into what HTM can do for you. Our knowledge and expertise are appreciated and welcomed. They believe in training and have allowed us to better support the hospital staff and more importantly the patients. Without their willingness, we couldn’t do or be who we are today. I truly think I have the best shop and best job in the world. I really enjoy coming to work every day,” Kenney adds.
In the picturesque town of Aiken, South Carolina, the work of HTM gets done efficiently and without complaint.
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