Editor’s note: As part of our series of articles about breast cancer treatment at Baystate Noble Hospital in Westfield, this week The Westfield News invited Julia Bragg, a medical assistant on the breast health team in the hospital’s Surgical Oncology and Breast Specialist office, to describe what she does in her own words.
By Julia Bragg
As a medical assistant, I am here to meet patients when they arrive to the office and get them checked in for their appointments.
I try and ease their fears and answer any questions they may have. Our patients are, more often than not, anxious to know what their appointment will entail. Once the patient has completed their paperwork, I bring them into the exam room. Here I check vitals, review medications and overall health as well as their family history.
This part of the visit usually entails questions from the patient about the doctor. They are always curious to know more: “Is he/she nice? Are they old? How long have they been in practice? Would you trust them?”
I do my best to make the patient feel calm and comfortable when they are in our care. These patients are not seeing us on their best day, for most of them it’s a pretty scary time, and we want them to leave us feeling confident not only about their treatment, but about the care team they are going to be working with.
Once the patient has met with the doctor and nurse navigator, they come back to me. Need surgery? I schedule it. Need further testing? I take care of that. Need a follow-up visit? No problem, I can book that for you. Have a question, if I cannot answer it for any reason, I know how to find the answer. I also work in conjunction with the surgical services team and the radiology team to make sure that our patients get their care quickly and efficiently.
I know that coming to our office is stressful for patients, so I do my best to make each patient feel welcome and comfortable. I enjoy getting to know them, and I get to do it in a unique way. Outside of the doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurse navigators, I am it, so I try to support them in any way that I can.
If I could speak to every patient prior to their appointment, I would tell them, you might be nervous when you get here, but I guarantee you will leave us feeling better, more relaxed and prepared for what comes next. Even if receiving really difficult news, I would like the patient to know they will leave this office with a smile. This entire care team wants our patients to know they are our priority, and we are here for them.
There are two memorable moments that stand out for me in this role. One that really sticks out in my mind: recently, Dr. Arenas had a patient, that at her initial visit was incredibly anxious. I could feel her anxiety in the room while taking her information. Then, after her second post-operative follow-up, she was the exact opposite. She said she wished all of our patients could feel like she did, that we made her feel comfortable and eased her anxiety completely. She appreciated our willingness to answer her questions at length, and talk to her when she called the office. She said she never felt she was burdening us when she called, that everyone was friendly and took excellent care of her.
The second memorable moment was when I was recently at a wedding, and recognized one of our past patients. I did not address or approach her. I did not want to disturb her. However, she came right up to me when she saw me, and gave me a hug. She thanked me so much for taking care of her and making a really difficult time easier and more comfortable.
I chose to be a medical assistant because I knew there would always be a need for me. But I stay in this role because I love it. I love my fellow team members, the providers, and I love the patients. I genuinely enjoy my job.
The best part of my job is being able to tell a patient “goodbye,” knowing I will never see them again. Our patients don’t follow with our practice forever, so it is exciting to see them discharged from the care of their surgeon and that they’ve moved on to a new and exciting part of their life.
Julia Bragg is a medical assistant at Baystate Noble Hospital. Every week during October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Westfield News will partner with Baystate Noble Hospital to share some of the stories of the medical professionals who treat breast cancer patients at Westfield’s community hospital. For more information about the hospital, visit baystatehealth.org or call 413-571-0000.