For most patients, their experience with UI Health Care starts with a phone call. And with the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, the Patient Access Center (PAC) is seeing more calls than ever before.
The Integrated Call Center (ICC) of the PAC has set multiple, daily call volume records, sometimes as much as double their normal. With the omicron surge, the ICC began seeing 1,500 to 2,000 calls a day.
In response to the need, some UI Health Care employees have been temporarily reassigned to multiple areas of the PAC to help keep up with the high volume of calls. Emra Mustedanagic, MHA, one of the PAC managers, oversees call center operations in several areas, including those handling suspected COVID-19 cases for the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Clinic.
“It can be a difficult thing to be reassigned and work somewhere you may not know much about,” Mustedanagic says. “We’re doing our best to make sure everybody has their own workspace and feels supported.”
She believes even the small things can help with that transition. Mustedanagic says they make sure to have personalized nameplates for everyone, not just permanent staff.
“For however long they’re here, we want them to feel like they are part of our team, and not just somebody who’s helping out temporarily,” Mustedanagic says.
Mustedanagic knows the value of training and learning by doing.
This isn’t the first time that the PAC has gotten help from reassigned employees, some of whom were asked to come back since they had already been trained during a previous surge. Of course, Mustedanagic says they are also prepared for reassigned employees without experience in the call center.
“They’re working really closely with our current team members and then training with them one on one. So, they are spending time together, listening to phone calls, and getting a better understanding of the process,” she says.
While reassignments help maintain the functionality of the PAC during the omicron surge, Mustedanagic is proud of how permanent staff have answered the call to take on the challenge of a surge.
“Some of our staff members changed their hours to help support weekend phone calls,” she says. “They’re just willing to do whatever the need is for our patients.
She says the staff’s focused has always been very “patient-centric.” It’s a feeling she shares, having taken on more responsibility over the past two years. Mustedanagic says her focus was always on the patients and her team.