TUPELO – A small group of North Mississippi Medical Center staff members touch every patient admitted to hospital without ever being seen.

The registered nurses and dispatchers who work in the transfer center serve as the medical equivalent of air traffic controllers, coordinating a complex ballet patient admissions, discharges, patient rooms, ambulances and resources.

“They play an intricate part of every patient’s experience, but no one ever sees them,” said Luke West, director of physician practice and transfer center.

Next year, the transfer center is slated for big changes, moving beyond managing the 650 patient beds in Tupelo. The staff will move to a larger space, and the name will change to the patient logistics command center as they begin managing the five community hospitals in the North Mississippi Health Services system, West said. “It will help us work together better as a system,” West said. “The goal is to go live in January” adding one hospital at a time.

Just managing NMMC-Tupelo, the center stays busy, averaging 1,200 patient admissions and 30,000 calls a month, said Tonya Scarbrough, transfer center nurse manager.

The transfer center is always open. Typically there are about five dispatchers and two nurses on duty in the transfer center, each handling a different aspect of moving patients where they need to go at NMMC-Tupelo’s main unit, Women’s Hospital and Behavioral Health Center.

“Every piece works together,” said Barry Kelly, dispatch supervisor.

They handle the ambulances in Lee, Itawamba and Pontotoc counties, calling in the medical helicopter as necessary. They coordinate the ambassadors, who provide the internal transportation for patients.

They signal environmental services when rooms are ready to be cleaned.

The nurses take calls from physicians, clinics and hospitals, arranging for incoming patients as well as admissions from emergency department. They keep a sharp eye on intensive care and step-down units, where patients need higher level of care. “We call it a chess game,” said Colleen Jones, a transfer center nurse. “It’s a constant back and forth, watching five programs.”

Color-coded monitors tell them what patients are ready to be transferred or discharged. They can see what rooms are cleaned and ready to go, which ones are waiting for repairs.

“Our goal is to get the patient to the right place, at the right time, with the right team for the right amount of time,” West said.

By Michaela Gibson Morris, Daily Journal

Jul 11, 2017