The art of lifesaving listening: hearing what’s in a person’s voice
“UCHealth Heart & Vascular Clinic. This is Eileen. How can I help you?”
That’s how Eileen Hill, a patient access representative at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, has answered the phone for the past five years.
“You never know what’s going to be on the other end of the phone, but my colleagues and I hear people,” said Hill. “Literally, yes, but we also hear what’s in a person’s voice.”
Recently, Hill sensed something in the voice of a patient on the other end of the phone.
“He was out of breath, and I could tell he was in distress,” she said.
Coincidently, the day prior, the patient’s primary care provider had notified UCHealth Heart & Vascular Clinic – Steamboat Springs that he was putting in a referral for the patient to be seen by one of the cardiologists.
“I remembered the patient’s name, but he called before the referral arrived,” said Hill. “We had an opening yet that day, but he said, ‘No, I’ll just come in tomorrow.’”
She encouraged the patient to call 911 or go to the emergency department at YVMC if anything came up before his appointment, and even offered to call the ED after they got off the phone if he wanted to go right away.
“When people are that stressed and feeling awful, they don’t always think about what they should do or need to do to help themselves,” said Hill. “It’s important for us to give those reminders.”
A short while later, cardiologist Dr. Jason Jurva was paged to the ED for a consult. He was able to perform a cardioversion to convert the patient’s heart into a normal rhythm. Had the patient not called 911 and been transported to the hospital, the outcome may have been different.
When Jurva returned to the clinic, Hill was shocked to learn it was the patient with whom she had spoken with on the phone.
“I didn’t know what to think,” she said. “I’m so glad I mentioned to him to call 911, and that he indeed called for help.”
Like many other patient access representative, Hill works to keep the heart of the office beating strong.
“We always try to go the extra mile to make sure everything is in place,” she said. “Have the medical records been received for a new patient? Does the provider have what is needed for the appointment? Have the images been pushed where they need to go? We hold high standards for ourselves, but always try to do our best for each other and our patients.”