During the initial onset of COVID-19 in Western New York, the Diagnostic Radiology team at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center huddled together to figure out a plan of attack. After all, cancer patients would still need their CT scans, MRIs, x-rays and ultrasounds. Cancer wouldn’t wait, and they didn’t want patients to feel uncomfortable or unsafe while getting the care they needed.
“In order to do their jobs, the technologists, nurses and clinical care associates have to be present in the department and close to patients,” says Ermelinda Bonaccio, MD, Chief of Diagnostic Radiology. “This is not a role that can be done remotely.”
From the moment the hospital began enacting extra safety procedures to protect patients from COVID-19 exposure, the 143-person Diagnostic Radiology team worked together quickly to adopt additional tasks to keep the department clean and safe.
“We typically see over 400 patients a day, and as the hospital decided to decrease volume and prepare for a surge of patients that, thankfully, never came, we did reduce our volume,” she says. “We were still seeing 150 to 200 patients a day.”
The team worked with other hospital staff to determine appropriate personal protective equipment for those who would be in close contact with patients. Technologists worked with Environmental Services to learn how to thoroughly sanitize all equipment and spaces between scans and procedures.
“They were just there taking care of patients every day,” Dr. Bonaccio says. “When the decision came that the hospital was prepared to increase clinical volumes, everyone worked together to start ramping up while still allowing for social distancing. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation.”
No one ever complained or suggested something wasn’t part of their job. Everyone on the team remained committed to providing the best service and care for patients.
“This is what I love most about working at Roswell Park: there’s a strong sense of mission and purpose from everyone,” Dr. Bonaccio says.
Walking through the department, she’d see her staff treating patients with the same kind, gentle and compassionate approach they used in “normal” times.
The Diagnostic Radiology team members agree they’ve grown closer together as a group through this time.
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“During these last few months, I feel we pulled together like a little family and we gave each other strength to get through these trying times,” says Melissa Sillett, the Chief Radiologic Technologist. “Our patients here at Roswell have been so sweet and appreciative and it really makes us feel great when they thank us for being here and taking care of them.”
Adds Ray Wasielewski, Chief Computed Tomography Technologist, “I feel we have grown closer as a department, and even more importantly, as a family. We have overcome many obstacles from the start. These obstacles have left us working harder than ever before. We never had one person call in or arrive late. We have been in together from day one. The patient care never wavered. We have weathered the storm and come out tighter and closer than before. I feel we have a one special department.”