October 28, 2021

ED clerks: the glue that holds it all together

It has been a time of change and growth for our Emergency Department (ED) clerks, who have been working tirelessly to help fight the pandemic, led by Trisha Abbey, Emergency Department Clerical Supervisor.

“We have 55 clerks in the team, with 20 rostered across 24 hours. People often think that we just take clerical details, but our role is so much more than that – it has a large focus on customer service, supporting patients and families with empathy, assisting the doctors, nurses and handling all the phone calls, as well as admissions, discharges, transfers out of hours,” she explains.

The last two years have brought numerous changes in how the team works, especially with the patient self-registration process and the introduction of the Virtual ED in October last year.

“ED now offers the virtual service, which has been so successful thanks to the hard work of everyone involved, including our clerks and Dr Loren Sher, who is the project lead. The number of virtual patients soared so much, that we had to put in a second support clerk for the virtual role, and the morning shift now sees 50-60 patients from both community and COVID positive pathway, which is an enormous number,” she explained.

For Trisha and the team, the role of an ED clerk is all about customer service.

“You need to have a kind heart and be able to provide empathy to people. One of the challenges in this role is always the time – we would all like more time to dedicate to reassuring the patients and families. We work incredibly well together, and that is demonstrated through the amount of work the team gets done,” she added.

Trisha has been working at Northern Health for twenty years, and for the most part has worked in Emergency. She has been in the current role for three and a half years.

“I enjoy leading the people, supporting them and seeing their growth. I’m really proud of the team – this hasn’t been an easy time for our staff and we had some really difficult days,” she added.

Even though the COVID times have been challenging and still are, there is a lot to learn from the change.

“Biggest takeaway from the COVID-19 is the adaptability. If there is one good thing that came out of the pandemic, it has demonstrated how adaptable the team is. Change isn’t easy for everyone, and if you look at what ED has achieved during this time with the new registration system and the Virtual ED, it is clear that these changes are here to stay,” Trisha added.

Keeping the team informed is an important part of her role. At the end of every week, on a Friday, she sends a weekly update.

“This update has data about the patients seen and admitted, ambulance presentations, and all the department changes. It is really important to communicate that, as we work 24/7 and it’s impossible to get all staff together. The update includes a section on wellbeing and resources available to staff”.

“Trisha is like the conductor of the orchestra”, says Clare McCarthy, Director Quality Safety and Patient Experience.

“Over the last month, the Rapid Antigen Testing Team has had the privilege to see Trisha make sure we’re all in sync, working harmoniously. Her and the clerks have made us members of the wider ED family – ‘together’ well and truly,” she added.

“In this day in age, you need to support your people – you are only as good as your team,” Trisha concludes.

Featured image (left to right): Zainab Ayub, Bree Lock, Trisha Abbey, Mel Scrimizzi, Lynette McDonald, ED Clerks