Geisinger’s transport “ninjas” enter the spotlight
Transporting patients who are impacted by the coronavirus gives inventory care support assistant Michael Black the chance to reassure them during a frightening time.
When COVID-19 was still truly “novel,” Geisinger Community Medical Center inventory care support assistant Michael Black was assured that he didn’t have to transport patients with the virus.
Mr. Black’s response?
“I shaved and got fit tested” for a respirator, he says, adding, “I didn’t start working for the hospital not to care for people. I feel like my job is really important.”
Transporting patients who are impacted by the pandemic gives Mr. Black, who is used to working with very ill — even terminally ill — patients, the chance to reassure them during a frightening time.
“I always tell people we’re going to take good care of them, but we’re usually smiling or joking,” he explains. “But now, some people are very intimidated.”
The solace, and the stress
Mr. Black, who has a condition that compels him to cough frequently, says providing comfort includes doing his best to suppress his own coughs and sneezes. “You want patients to feel like you’re taking every step you can to keep them safe,” he says.
The work can also be emotionally taxing. “I had to stop a man from going to see his wife, and I saw how upset he was,” he says. “It broke me. I can’t imagine if my wife was in the hospital and they told me I couldn’t see her.”
In fact, Mr. Black’s wife gave birth at Geisinger Community Medical Center’s new Childbirth Center shortly before the virus appeared locally. “I was off for two weeks, and when I came back, things went crazy,” he says. “I wasn’t afraid for myself. You’re afraid you’re going to bring it home.”
But for Mr. Black, facing the pandemic head-on is a way to support his colleagues, too. Especially the nursing staff.
“We’re lifting patients, taking them out of bed, moving them onto tables — if I can give a nurse one minute out of the room, that’s one minute they’re not exposed,” he says.
Getting patients wherever they need to go during a pandemic
Mr. Black also hopes that telling his story will shed light on the work done by all those who quietly make sure Geisinger patients get where they need to go, a job that may involve helping people who’ve fallen, who need assistance using the restroom or who must travel between facilities during a medical crisis.
“We’re like the ninjas of the hospital,” he says. “We do upwards of 50 patient transports a day, per person, over 8 floors. That’s a lot of steps, and it’s more involved than people think.”
However, Mr. Black, who previously worked for a beer distributor, insists the job is not a burden, even during a pandemic.
“I wanted to be more hands-on with people,” he says. “I wanted to help people.”