Patient Transportation Embraces All: An “Inclusive” Look Behind the Scenes

Ben and his two supervisors smiling in front of a patient transportation cart. They are holding a red sign that says "Inclusiveness"

When you ask 23-year-old Ben Walter how he’s doing, you get a cheerful, “Good, very busy!”

Each day, Ben rounds up dozens of wheelchairs, motorized stretchers and gurneys from all parts of The James – and makes sure they’re clean and ready to roll.

Ben is the one and only general services assistant in the Patient Transportation Department at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He earned this newly created job title after working hard in the TOPS Program at the Nisonger Center, which offers unique study and employment opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Ben takes great pride in his work,” says his supervisor, John Roese, Patient Transportation. “He’s full of energy. He loves to talk with people and connect with others.”

Actually, John is a relationship-builder too ─ in the way he partners with Ben and supervises his team.

“John changes the atmosphere in a positive way ─ with his spirituality, adaptability and empathy. He’s an amazing listener, says Shelly Martin, assistant director of Patient Transportation. “We knew he would be adept at helping Ben succeed in this new position.”

Shelly and John embrace the core value of inclusiveness as they manage Ben and the rest of the Patient Transportation team.

“We are committed to inclusion and efforts to support everyone,” Shelly says.

Within the Patient Transportation Department, team members of different ages, abilities, genders and cultural backgrounds work toward the same goal: safe, timely transportation of patients.

Diverse team performs vital work 

The Patient Transportation Department is vital for the smooth operation of the hospital and for providing a pleasant customer service experience.

“It’s very important work that we do,” Shelly says. “Our team members transport patients throughout the entire health system, everywhere except outpatient facilities and OSU East. We know how to get from points A to B efficiently.”

Meanwhile, John supervises the Patient Transportation storekeepers ─ Ben, plus five others. They collect abandoned wheelchairs and equipment, easily walking 10 miles a day through hospital tunnels, crossovers and parking garages. They make sure everything is sanitized, powered up and functioning properly ─ essential work that could easily be taken for granted.

“Our storekeepers do their part to make sure there are no delays in patient care,” John explains. “Sometimes their work goes unnoticed. You just expect wheelchairs and stretchers to magically appear and be there, but you don’t see the behind-the-scenes people who make it happen.”

Naturally, wheelchairs and gurneys are hot commodities around here. So each morning, Ben assesses the equipment supply in the storage room and helps line up wheelchairs at the entrance for people arriving at The James.

Next, he meticulously checks the floors for left-behind equipment, which will be needed throughout the day for transporting patients to surgeries, X-rays and other procedures.

“To help Ben keep track of what he’s doing, his coaches created a special list on a dry erase card,” explains John. “After he collects equipment from one floor, he checks it off, and then hits the next floor, working his way down.”

“It’s a lot of walking,” Ben says with a laugh.

Being differently abled doesn’t stop people from working in Patient Transportation.

“Everyone deserves a chance. We’ll work a strategy to make people successful ─ through accommodations or resources,” John says. “Ben and I talk throughout the day. I make sure his needs are met, and we work hard to get the job done. We’re glad he’s here.”

Break down barriers ─ why not? 

By tackling his job each day, Ben breaks down barriers and brings awareness to others that differently abled people can perform many types of roles.

“Ben shows great courage in just being here,” Shelly says. “At first, people may not understand, but he takes us through the learning process of how we can accept and appreciate people of all intellectual and physical abilities.”

Whenever reasonably possible, Shelly does her best to be inclusive and support her team members dealing with other life issues, too.

“For example, we try to make accommodations for people who have visual challenges due to age. We try to accommodate women after childbirth who face nursing challenges and single parents who need to adjust their schedules to care for children,” Shelly explains. “We even incorporate shoes into our uniform budget so our staff (who walk 7-10 miles a day) can afford shoes.”

When someone has a challenging request or situation, Shelly, John and the rest of the leadership team first ask themselves, “Why not?”

“Let’s figure out how we can do this,” Shelly explains. “And if there’s a good reason we can’t, that’s fine. But before we say no, we always ask, ‘Why not?’”

Being inclusive pays big dividends for everyone.

“When we treat people with respect and fairness, they have that sense of belonging and can be an equal team member,” Shelly says. “They come to work with joy and passion for their work.”

Grateful for the opportunity

As for Ben, he’s thrilled to work in health care. His mother was a physical therapist, and this job helps him proudly follow in her footsteps.

After a long shift of checking floors and gathering up wheelchairs and transportation equipment, Ben feels like he’s making a contribution.

“I feel good because I’m helping people. I help my co-workers because they don’t have to find the gurneys and clean them,” explains Ben.

And by providing wheelchairs, Ben helps our patients, too.

“I make the patients’ days a little easier,” he says. “Patients are dealing with a lot of stress, and sometimes life and death stuff. I know how they feel. And this is how I can help them.”

Quick Facts About Patient Transportation 

  • We have approximately 70 transport staff members (and we’re training more).
  • Our team performs approximately 700 patient transports daily.
  • We have approximately 400 wheelchairs (and can always use more).
  • It’s not unusual for team members to walk 7-10 miles a day, transporting patients and collecting equipment.
  • We’ve tracked down our wheelchairs in parking garages, downtown alleys, at Goodwill and even as far away as West Virginia.

This article is part of a series describing how Ohio State faculty and staff are leading the way by embodying the Buckeye Spirit in everything they do through shared values of empathy, ownership, inclusiveness, determination, innovation and sincerity. 

Source: “Patient Transportation Embraces All: An ‘Inclusive’ Look Behind the Scenes.” HealthBeat HUB, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, 10 June 2020, onfirstup.com/ohiostate/ohiostate/contents/22286919.

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