Keeping the emergency department smooth

U.P. Health System-Portage hospital photo The Emergency Department of a hospital can be a very busy place. At UP Health System-Portage, Alecyn Sintkowski is the one who keeps it running smoothly.

A hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) has to be a well-oiled machine and, as the Emergency Department Coordinator at UP Health System-Portage (UPHS-Portage), Alecyn Sintkowski is the one who oils it.

“I started at Portage as a Nursing Supervisor in 2010,” said Sintkowski.

As a Nursing Supervisor, she was regularly called to the ED.

“I’ve always loved the adrenaline from working in the Emergency Department, so when the ED Coordinator job opened up, I took it,” said Sintkowski. 

As Emergency Department Coordinator, Sintkowski isn’t always with patients, but she is always busy. Sintkowski’s responsibilities include constant monitoring of the care provided in the ED, tracking metrics regarding patient volume and length of stay, and constantly looking at ways to provide optimal patient care. 

She is also the Trauma Program Manager at UPHS-Portage. She provides Injury Prevention Education for the community, coordinates trauma education and certifications for the staff, and tracks each injured patient that enters the system to ensure that the best practice was followed with that patient.  

UPHS-Portage’s ED is a verified Level 3 Trauma Center with the American College of Surgeons and is an Accredited Chest Pain Center with the American College of Cardiology. They are also part of the Region 8 Trauma Network. Sintkowski collaborates with other hospitals to help provide the best trauma care for patients in the Upper Peninsula where she is responsible for entering information into state databases, which epidemiologists use to identify injury patterns. These database patterns are then used to develop injury prevention education programs that focus on those areas.  

When the ED is particularly busy, she can also be found answering phones at the front desk, arranging transportation for patients who need to be transferred to other facilities, or stepping in to provide patient care.  She also works with patients and family members to make sure their ED stay is satisfactory.

“I try to resolve any patient issue as soon as it comes up,” said Sintkowski, “Our focus is patient safety and satisfaction.” 

There are a lot of areas where miscommunication could enter the equation in an emergency setting. When someone comes to the ED, their first step is usually stopping at the registration desk, though this step is bypassed in serious cases.

“We bring the patient right back to a room if they are in distress,” said Sintkowski.

If the patient is not in serious distress, the patient registers and then nursing is notified. The nurse then brings the patient into a room to begin the triage process of recording symptoms and collecting a medical history. The nurse communicates with one of the five Board Certified Emergency Physicians who work at UPHS-Portage, Emily Johnson, MD, Tara Roninette, MD, Dawn Nulf, MD, Danny Yarger, MD and Dennis Whitehead, MD, or one of our Advanced Practice Providers, Courtney Smith, PA, Bruce Anderson, NP and Lisa Meyer, NP. The provider then orders tests and makes plans for the patient’s care depending on the individual case. 

Some of the most commonly treated issues at the ED include abdominal pain, chest pain, and broken bones, though they see and treat a wide variety of cases.

“Some things you would only expect to see in a bigger hospital, we see here,” said Sintkowksi. 

The ED can still be a hectic place, but It’s become less crowded since the Express Care opened.

“We see fewer walk-in clinic patients because they go to Express Care,” said Sintkowski. “It makes it easier for us to take care of critical patients.” Sometimes patients are sent to the ED from Express Care for additional testing. 

Lower patient volumes aren’t just due to express care, however.

“Volumes have gone down nationally,” said Sintkowski, “fewer people are going to the Emergency Department unless they absolutely need to because of the rising cost of health care.” 

Knowing when to go to the ED can be difficult. Patients may want to go in for an issue that is less serious than it might seem or they may risk putting off an issue that might get worse with time.

“People tend to overlook sepsis,” said Sintkowski, “Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Anyone can get an infection and any infection can lead to sepsis. People at highest risk are the elderly, people with chronic conditions, those with weakened immune systems, and young children. Our goal is to treat sepsis aggressively with appropriate antibiotics and IV fluids. When left untreated, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.” 

“Follow your gut,” says Sintkowski. “If you think something isn’t right with you or your loved one, you should seek medical attention.” 

The Emergency Department is always open and located on the East side of the UPHS-Portage’s main campus in Hancock. If you or someone that you are with cannot get someone to the hospital yourself, call 9-1-1 for an ambulance. 

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