What does a patient escort do?

Navigating one of the largest cancer centers in the world can be daunting, especially if you’ve just had a medical procedure or treatment. But Patient Transportation is here to help you get around MD Anderson

Each day, patient escorts connect with patients to ensure they arrive at the right places for tests, procedures and other destinations. On average, they handle about 17 transports per shift. Additionally, they assist when patients are discharged from the hospital – often as the last smiling face a patient sees before exiting our doors to return home. 

A responsive process to help our patients

All requests for patient transportation services are made through our electronic health record, which automatically forwards the request to a dispatcher in Patient Transportation. 

The dispatcher reviews the information, which includes the patient’s name and medical record number, origin, destination, any equipment needed and other pertinent details. 

“Once we’ve confirmed the information, the assignment is sent to a patient escort through an app on their phones,” says Isamar Andrade, a dispatcher who worked for more than two years as a patient escort before moving into her current role. 

“A dispatcher has to understand all of the dynamics required to move a patient and must effectively communicate any issues or delays.”

Upon arriving at the pick-up location, the patient escort notifies the nurse or patient services coordinator of their arrival and verifies the patient identification information is correct before providing the handoff and transferring the patient.

Responsiveness is vital because patients and our colleagues rely on them. The patient escorts have a specific amount of time to acknowledge the call, gather the necessary equipment and complete the request by getting the patient from point A to point B. And they do it all while demonstrating our core value of Caring. 

Preparing to help our cancer patients

Patient escorts undergo four weeks of employee training when they begin working at MD Anderson. In addition to learning our procedures for properly using and sanitizing equipment, handling specimens, preventing the spread of germs and infections, and reporting potential safety issues, they spend a lot of time shadowing experienced escorts and learning the way around our campus.

Senior Patient Escort Deidre Frederick-Laws, who has trained newly hired escorts at MD Anderson for more than 18 years, says MD Anderson is like a big puzzle that patient escorts are expected to put together before their training is complete. 

“It all comes down to getting your bearings,” Frederick-Laws says. “I’ve seen patient escorts initially being quite afraid of navigating our large and complex facilities to now helping people find their way around and feeling more comfortable every day.” 

Another strong emphasis of the patient escort training focuses on exceeding patients’ expectations by anticipating their needs. This may be as simple as just listening or engaging in a short conversation.

“We strive to be a part of the healing process by creating relationships with our patients and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve,” adds Frederick-Laws. “Often we see patients we serve return to MD Anderson for appointments and walking on their own, and it’s always good to have that connection anytime we see a familiar face.”

An opportunity to learn, grow and connect

Ti’ara Johnson, who joined MD Anderson less than a year ago after earning her bachelor’s degree, made the decision to become a patient escort because she wanted health care experience to eventually pursue a career in health education. Someone Johnson knew underwent treatment for leukemia at MD Anderson, which inspired her to begin her career journey here.

“I know what MD Anderson does for patients and the caring environment that exists here,” Johnson says. “It’s been the perfect match for me to learn because I enjoy helping others and getting to know people.”

Andrade agrees. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Physics, and she says her experiences working with others here have piqued her interest in pursuing a career in Emergency Medicine or Pathology. 

“Being a part of MD Anderson has motivated me to work harder and follow my dreams.”

A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s quarterly publication for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.

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