17 Oct Behind the Scenes at HDH
If you or your family have used any of the services at Harney County Health District, you’ve probably interacted with our top-notch clinical staff and front desk staff. The goal here is to introduce a few of the “behind the scenes” departments and staff that you may not know as much about, and to show the many ways we care for our patients and work to enrich lives through better health.
The importance of cleanliness in a medical setting cannot be overstated. Controlling the spread of infections and viruses by maintaining the highest standard of hygiene possible is what the Environmental Services (EVS) team at Harney District Hospital (HDH) is tasked with day in and day out. EVS Manager Janet Vinson and her staff of 10 are on it.
“We have to make sure every area is cleaned, sanitized and stocked, every single day,” Vinson explained.
Some areas, including operating rooms, the emergency room, radiology, and obstetrics require “terminal cleaning” – disinfecting of every surface, even “mopping” the ceiling and stretching out any telephone cords to wipe them down.
Vinson’s staff of 10 are responsible not only for cleaning the hospital, but also HDH Family Care clinic, HDH Physical and Sports Therapy, the sleep lab, and the residences provided for locum tenens (temporary) surgeons and other clinical staff.
In addition to cleaning, Vinson and her staff are charged with restocking supplies and laundering linens for all those locations.
Born in Tokyo, Vinson moved as a 6-month-old to Harney County. Other than a 12-year stretch in Prineville, she’s been here her whole life. She raised two sons as a stay-at-home mom, worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant while in Prineville, and was employed at Monaco Coach before joining the EVS team at HDH in 2010. In 2016, when former EVS Manager Tammy Carroll retired, Vinson decided to apply for the job and put her years of skills and knowledge of the facility to work in a leadership position. Vinson thinks very highly of the staff she manages:
“They are a great team – they are always aware of where the need is and they jump in and help,” Vinson said.
In addition to pride in her staff, she has pride in working at HDH.
“I brag about it a lot to people,” she said with a laugh. “We have so many great services – it’s nice whenever you don’t have to leave town for health care.”
information technology (noun): the technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data
You may not yet realize the scale of information technology (IT) that is behind the patient care given at HDH (and pretty much all health care providers), but suffice it to say, the amount of things still done with pen and paper is quickly diminishing. All of the nearly 200 jobs at HDH are tied in some way to a computer, a network, and a slew of programs and applications that must be functional and accessible all day, every day. IT Specialist John Stinnett is one of three employees at HDH who are responsible for it all.
“Nothing is at rest in IT. Everything is always moving. And you have to be always moving to keep up,” Stinnett explained about his job.
Health care itself is a “24/7/365” job, and health care IT is no different. One of the three IT specialists (Stinnett, Jeff Porter and Nancy Walker) at HDH is on-call at all times. There are individual desktops, internal networks, electronic health record software, and not to mention the old standard phone and fax lines, among countless other things, that are in a near constant state of needing maintenance and upgrades. Plus, it involves working around highly-sensitive patient care issues. For instance, computer maintenance in the emergency department can’t follow a solid, set schedule, as it is, of course, impossible to predict when patients will be admitted.
Stinnett has been working at HDH since 2005, and living in Harney County for more than 25 years. He and his wife have four children between the ages of 9 and 22. Prior to HDH, he held IT positions at the Bureau of Land Management Burns District, and Harney County School District #3. He said he enjoys the variety of his job:
“You have to be a generalist in this position,” Stinnett explained, “you have to be flexible, and be a ‘superlearner’ – you have to enjoy learning and be able to learn quickly.”
With 12 years at HDH, Stinnett has a lot of stories to tell. He remembers the migration from the old hospital to the new facility in 2007, and the many long hours of work and planning that went into it. He also recalls some funny moments, such as when a surgeon brought in his pager to be fixed, because it had been eaten by his dog (and later retrieved).
“I told him, ‘how about we just give you a new one,’” Stinnett said with a laugh.
Stinnett describes his coworkers as skilled and resourceful.
“We can rely on one another. Each of us holds a piece of the puzzle,” he said.
On the whole, Stinnett sees great value in HDH’s presence in this community.
“We have a goal of providing outstanding care, and a lot hospitals our size don’t try to provide everything we do,” he said.
HDH Materials Department Manager Angie Whitney and Materials Clerks Tim Scott and Cassie Cornell make up the strong team that keeps HDH stocked with the supplies that are needed to give great care every day.
They are charged with placing, receiving and delivering all supply orders for all departments of the health district – everything from copy paper to intravenous (IV) solutions. Every morning they check that supplies are stocked to the appropriate level (or higher when the need is anticipated), and twice a year they conduct a full inventory.
There are certainly some unique challenges that face the Materials Department due to the geography of Harney County. Winter weather has been known to disrupt the delivery schedule (especially this past winter). Over the summer, several events brought an influx of people to Harney County, which meant planning and stocking up for possible increased use of services. There’s also the daily challenge of placing orders with vendors who are two to three hours ahead, and the uncertainty of shipping times.
But Whitney explained the team always rises to these challenges – and goes above and beyond. She recounted an instance when Scott stopped in John Day on the way home from his vacation to pick up some supplies that were needed in short order.
“I couldn’t ask for a better staff,” said Whitney, “they are highly-trained and they are always willing to step up and lead.”
It’s challenging to even begin to list all the things HDH Facilities Services Supervisor Joe Baker and Maintenance Worker Jeff Ritches are responsible for day in and day out. Basically, anything that has to do with the basic functioning and regular maintenance of the buildings and grounds of the health district campus falls under their task list. It can range from installing new fire alarms, to performing maintenance on the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, to snow removal (see again: winter 2016-17).
Baker is a born-and-raised Harney County native, father of four, and a rancher. He’s been working at HDH for 8 years now, although his familiarity with the building and grounds extends beyond that to his work as the electrical foreman during the construction of the facility 10 years ago. He was ultimately drawn to the HDH job because he wanted to stay closer to home, as his construction job required a lot of travel.
He likes the problem solving aspect of his job – it’s always a surprise what will come up day to day (some surprises being more welcome than others).
Other than an 18-year stint in Bend, Sue Pedersen has lived in Harney County for her whole life. Among many adventures, she and her husband have owned the Desert Historic Theatre for 17 years. In 2014, she joined the staff of HDH’s Dietary Services Department, and in 2016, she became the manager of the department.
Dietary Services is responsible for the providing patient meals and for running the Grand Street Café that serves patients and their families, staff, and the general public.
Pedersen says one of the challenges of her job is creating meals to fit different patient needs, and that follow doctor’s orders. Common dietary needs include heart-healthy and diabetic meals, as well as accommodations for various allergies. One that may be less familiar is dysphagia. Dysphagia is the medical term for the symptom of difficulty in swallowing. People with dysphagia are at risk of aspirating food particles and liquid into their lungs. Depending on the patient, this requires diets of softened or pureed foods and thickened liquids.
If there’s one thing Pedersen will tell you, it’s that she loves food. She also enjoys the patient interaction, and all the little things she and her staff do to make their stay in the hospital a little brighter. Cake is a standard for birthdays, and Pedersen said she recently made a piña colada (“Virgin, of course,” she clarified) for a patient who requested it specially.
Pedersen said she likes working at HDH because of the team atmosphere.
“All the departments work together and help each other out when it’s needed. Everybody wants everybody to succeed,” said Pedersen. “I’ve had the CEO and CFO volunteering to do dishes when we’re shorthanded,” she added.
She said she sees HDH as having great value to the community because of the compassion and personal care.
“People aren’t just shuffled to the side, like in a bigger place,” she explained. “They really try to figure out what’s wrong and how to help.”