PINEHURST – If a heartbeat measures how hard a body is working, then the heartbeat of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital must be the Telemetry Unit.
Feb. 14, 2012, marked the unit’s 20th anniversary. Telemetry’s importance and all that it does have become more obvious with each passing year.
“We watch every patient in the hospital who is having breathing or heart rate issues, with the exception of those in critical care,” says clinical director Patty Hodges, R.N.
Cardiac monitor tech Steve McNeill observes patient heart rhythms and rates displayed on a Telemetry monitor at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. McNeill has been with the Telemetry unit throughout its 20-year history.
Telemetry technicians not only observe heart rhythms and rates, but they also watch oxygen saturation levels over computer monitors. Every patient has a number and a place on the Telemetry screens. Each screen is carefully monitored by Telemetry technicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If a problem appears on the screen, the technicians alert the bedside nurse.
“When I explain to people what Telemetry is, I tell them we are the ‘ears’ for the patient,” Hodges says. “We listen and observe the heart rate. A nurse is the ‘eyes’ of the patient. If not for the Telemetry technicians, a nurse would not know if something was wrong with the patient’s breathing or heart rate.”
Over two decades, the Telemetry unit has grown from six employees to 20, with four working each shift. Of the 20 current employees, five will note their 20th anniversary with the unit this year.
As Moore Regional and patient volumes have grown, so has the number of Telemetry monitors, tripling over the past 20 years. The original unit had only 30 monitors.
The unit’s work has also expanded – from observing heart rhythms only to monitoring oxygenation levels also.
Shirley Rodgers, a 20-year Telemetry technician, believes that the greatest changes have been in technology and medicine.
“More doctors are prescribing cardiac drugs to their patients,” she says. “In the beginning, we only monitored arrhythmia. Now we do so much more.”
In 20 years, the size and location of the unit’s office have also changed – starting out in a closet-size room before moving to one more the size of a bedroom. The staff is now happily settled in what employees refer to as the “family room” on the hospital’s third floor.
“It’s fitting, because we are like family,” says Hodges.
The warmth of the office’s staff exudes the family-like feeling, and Hodges treated her employees with cake and decorations to observe the recent anniversary. She says it’s the physicians and the nurses who see first hand what Telemetry does and how vital the “family room” is to the hospital. She has seen their respect for the unit grow during her 12 years as clinical director.
“We are close to our patients,” Hodges says. “Employees of the hospital see the connection we have with our patients. That connection and the employees in our unit are what make Telemetry succeed.”