In the former staff lounge at Wesley Medical Center, 550 N. Hillside, one of the two refrigerators standing side by side has the letters “EMS” taped in red construction paper below a picture of a heart catheterization.
The refrigerator contains water bottles, sodas, snacks – grab-and-go items for Emergency Medical Services responders.
Construction is underway to convert the area into an EMS lounge, Mitch Helfferich explained. It’s part of a push to provide more quality service to patients by making the jobs of EMS responders easier.
Enter Helfferich, who knows from experience in his 16 years as a paramedic how difficult patient follow-up can be and how resources available in-house are not common knowledge.
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A year ago, he began his current role as EMS coordinator. The job requires Helfferich to act as a liaison between the EMS crews on the field and the staff at the Wesley Medical Center.
Helfferich alerts EMS crews of changes in procedures and route changes due to construction and provides feedback on patient care, which gives closure on the patient loop – the cycle of a patient from his or her dispatch call to his or her discharge from the hospital.
The feedback to EMS crews, he said, “provides education, confirmation of their decisions and care delivered, and general ease for comfort on how the patient did.”
Face-to-face communication is his style – his office will be in the EMS lounge, he will work one evening a week with night crews, and “it’s not uncommon for me to be in the back of the ambulance with them,” he said – but his work isn’t limited only to Sedgwick County.
Helfferich sends emails to the 171 emergency and non-emergency services in the entire state to educate responders about resources available in Wesley Medical Center; Wesley West, 8714 W. 13th St.; and Galichia Heart Hospital, 2610 N. Woodlawn.
It all relates to a term Helfferich coined: WECARE, which means “Wesley Employees Care About Responders’ Effectiveness.”
“(Wesley Medical Center) has shown us a lot of appreciation,” said Luke Ratzliff, lieutenant for the Sedgwick County EMS. “Mitch has always been in contact with us. He asks us how we’re doing.”
Ratzliff has been with the Sedgwick County EMS for about four years and can attest to the difference between the days with Helfferich and without. He motions to the refrigerator. Because EMS is a busy service, responders frequently have to miss meals. Being able to grab refreshments helps tremendously.
“Actions really do speak volumes,” he said.
Helfferich spent 16 years as a paramedic before spending five years in the emergency room as a registered trauma nurse. The experiences allow him to educate ER staff of EMS policies and on how to be more effective with EMS patients.
Because Wesley Medical Center is a Level 1 trauma facility, a great variety of patients enter. A trauma pilot program for Wesley Medical Center allows EMS responders to send pictures to the hospital from the scene, allowing hospital staff to view injuries before the patient arrives.
The communication helps patients receive the best possible care.
Even smaller effects – doctors, nurses and EMS responders who know one another on a first-name basis – can help patients, Ratzliff said.
“The relationship gives them confidence,” he said.
Sixteen years ago, when Helfferich began as an emergency medical technician in Manhattan, Kan., he fell in love with the opportunity to help others.
“When you can recognize you made a difference, it’s an awesome feeling,” Helfferich said.
Now is his chance to help the “silent heroes” on the scene, EMS responders, he said.
“Knowing EMS expectations – these guys are stopwatch-driven – and ER expectations, I feel I have so much passion in this position,” he said.