There’s a philosophy among those who perform X-rays and computed
tomography (CT) scans at Southeast Georgia Health System. “Patients
are often fearful or anxious during an imaging scan, or they’re
in pain from an accident or injury, so my folks make every effort to make
the experience and process as easy as possible,” says Scott Wilson,
MSA, CRA, director of the Health System’s
Imaging Services Department.
Wilson explains that most patients who visit the Health System’s
Emergency Care Centers need imaging services. “This is especially true for
COVID-19 patients. Our techs really get to know these patients since most of them
get a significant number of chest X-rays and/or CT scans while hospitalized.”
CT Technologist Cameron Piper, RT(R)(CT)ARRT concurs, “We touch every
COVID-19 patient in this hospital, many on multiple occasions. When the
pandemic kicked in the front door, we asked, ‘How can we help?’
instead of running the other direction. Some of us spent hours performing
exams on COVID-19 patients during the surges.”
Much of Piper’s time is spent in the Brunswick Campus Emergency Care
Center working with seriously ill patients. “CT is the gold standard
for diagnosing a variety of pathologies and conditions. Think of it as
3D X-rays that give far more detail into the patient’s internal
Throughout the pandemic, the technologists worked with radiologists to
find ways to customize the exams to increase accuracy and comfort for
patients with COVID-19. They also worked closely as a team, helping each
other out, especially during the surge. Treating patients with COVID-19
took extra time due to gowning and cleaning equipment thoroughly between patients.
There’s a lot on the line when your job helps doctors confirm or
deny a suspected diagnosis. Producing high quality images accurately and
efficiently, sometimes as often as every 10-15 minutes, is no easy feat.
Piper says, “Throughout the process, we comfort patients, ease their
anxieties and help them understand their exams.
The payoff comes when an image reveals answers that might help a patient
get better. “You realize your profession makes a difference the
moment a patient receives a diagnosis and recovers after being treated,”
says Benita Chance, RT(R)ARRT, radiologic technologist.
Sacrificing for the Greater Good
Like Piper, Chance says COVID-19 is a formidable foe. She relies on her
faith to conquer challenges. “When the work day begins, there are
precious lives to care for and you have to give them your all. Before
the start of every work day, I pray for healing, strength and restoration.
At the end of every work day, I sit in my car for at least 30 minutes
to compose myself before driving home. Some days are spent in silence
from total exhaustion, some days crying for lives lost and families affected,
and some days rejoicing for the ones who made it.”
The Health System’s team members have needed every ounce of strength
to cope over the last 19 months of the COVID-19 health crisis. Staffing
shortages required working long hours, often for multiple days in a row.
As days turned into weeks, they spent less and less time with their own
families to provide support to COVID-19 patients who could not have visitors.
“We offer whatever help they need. We give words of encouragement
and listen as they share details about their lives and families. I’ve
held their hands as an act of kindness because no one else could be there
due to COVID-19 visitation policies. We pull together to care for our
community,” Chance says.
For Piper, the hardest part of the pandemic has been its longevity. “It
seems to be cyclical. Each time the tide comes in, we are a little more
prepared, but still trying to recover strength to muster up the fight.”
Despite exhaustion and staffing challenges, the team soldiers on. “Through
catastrophic circumstances, I can count on my co-workers to make sure
we’re safe, to encourage each other and to work together to serve
our community. We have strength individually but are stronger together,”
Wilson agrees. “The imaging techs work as a team to help other areas
when loads are heavy, or assistance is needed.”
Like hospitals across the country, the Health System has struggled with
staff turnover. However, the Imaging Services 75-person department has
remained relatively stable. “The staff who are still here deserve
credit for their undying loyalty to the community. We’re still getting
the job done, doing more with less. And we will remain here doing our
part to help our community,” Piper says.
Chance reports that the community’s support has frequently helped
brighten their days. “The outpouring of gratitude from patients
and families has made me and my co-workers realize we truly make an impact
on their lives.”
COVID-19 hit close to home for Piper last January, when he and his wife
caught the virus. They came through okay, but Piper, like all health care
workers, still worries about bringing the virus home. And yet, they face
down their fears, day in and day out, to provide quality care to their
patients and community. “This is the only hospital in a small community.
Many patients we see are either a friend or neighbor or family to someone
we know,” Piper says.