Day in the (hospital) life: Inside the WMC Referral Center

By Valerie Hess Apr 25, 2014

Jessie Davis (left), has been a referral center specialist since Nov. 2013 and has worked at the hospital for two years. Samantha Anderson, referral center coordinator, has worked at WMC for more than nine years.

Jessie Davis (left), has been a referral center specialist since November 2013 and has worked at the hospital for two years. Samantha Anderson, referral center coordinator, has worked at WMC for more than nine years.

What it is: The WMC Regional Referral Center is the behind-the-scenes, communication center for transfers into or out of Wyoming Medical Center, whether they are directly admitted from their physician, transferred from another facility or coming via a 911-call. They also work closely with physicians for physician consults either for advice or transferring in patients so that accepting physicians know the patients history before they come in.

Who works there: There are eight referral center specialists: Jerry Clemens, Mark Coulter, Jessie Davis, Brian Florez, Shila Groathouse, Kim Mankin, Pete St. Clair, Jennifer Walker and Coordinator Samantha Anderson.

Where it is: The referral center is located behind the ambulance bays under the old parking garage.

Why it’s important: It is the center of communication for incoming and outgoing transfer patients.

Under the parking garage, next to the ambulance bay, you will find a small office with two to three people answering the phone and listening to the busy Casper Fire/EMS radio calls. These are the people behind the scenes. They dispatch ambulances when requested from 911 calls, non-emergency police calls or other healthcare facilities. They track where each WMC ambulance is and how long each call takes.

One of the advantages of the referral center is that physicians in rural areas can consult with the experts here at Wyoming Medical Center, from cardiology to neurosurgery or other specialties. We are the resource for that second opinion that a physician might need on cases that they may not see very often. Whether the patient is sent to our facility or another, the regional referral center does whatever it takes to get the best appropriate care for patients. They coordinate these consults and transfer patients if appropriate.

When a patient is transferred to Wyoming Medical Center, there are a lot of people involved: the physician sending the patient along with the physicians who that patient might see. It could involve multiple specialists, the hospitalists or other disciplines. There could be three to four people on one conference call to discuss the best way to care for a patient. The referral center specialists get all of these people on the phone, which helps alleviate the sending physician and even the patient from having to repeat themselves multiple times. Once the patient has been accepted for transfer, up to 12 more calls could be needed, from bed placement to charge nurses to case management.

There are nine referral center staff members and the center is manned with at least two staff members 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most have EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certification and all must have taken a medical terminology course. They are trained in customer service, multi-tasking and critical thinking skills. On average, they dispatch 25 to 50 ambulances each day. They gather patient information from 911 calls so the Emergency Room is aware of who is coming in and his or her diagnosis. They know where all ambulances are at all times and track their response times.

Samantha Anderson shared one of her most memorable stories from working in the referral center. About eight years ago 39 people injured. were injured in a bad bus crash outside of Rawlins. When they received the call, Samantha’s partner jumped on one of three ambulances headed to the scene and Samantha was left on her own to help arrange transport for each patient, whom none of were identified. All were referenced as Jane or John Doe 1, 2, 3 etc. She worked with Wyoming Life Flight (which was the only air ambulance service at that time) which had both the fixed-wing plane and helicopter transferring patients to Wyoming Medical Center, Billings Clinic, Salt Lake City and Denver depending on the level of care needed. Samantha was an integral part of making sure each patient got where they needed to go as quickly as possible.

The referral center is really the communication center of WMC. Its staff are the eyes and ears around Casper and have a pulse of what is going on around town. They are the first ones that referring physicians communicate with and the first ones to know the patients coming in on ambulances. Every call is different, every day a new adventure. From across the cubicles if, both staff members are on the phone they have special hand gestures to let each other know they are doing good or may need more help – and sometimes they just have to dance out the excitement of their call.

By The Numbers

  • 1700 ambulances dispatched in 2013
  • 482 transfers coordinated between January and March 2014
  • 37 transfers were to outside facilities
  • 1 transfer was from Mexico to WMC
  • 202 transfers were coming in from out of Casper

“Day in the (hospital) life” is an occasional series highlighting the work that goes on every day in Wyoming Medical Center departments. Not all of the work may be evident to our patients, but all of it is essential to bringing you safe, compassionate care.

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