After nearly 30 years at UI Hospitals and Clinics and more than 20 of them in the Medicine Specialty Clinic, Nancy Swaney, Frontline Lead, has only recently begun to indulge her nostalgia. Not for the way things used to be around the hospital, but for where she grew up. She and her sister just recently finished a nearly two-week tour of their hometown and the surrounding area on a West Coast driving tour.
Originally from Vancouver, Washington, a town just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Ms. Swaney moved to Iowa after meeting and marrying “an Iowa farm boy who happened to be stationed on the West Coast in the Navy.” While her husband began his post-service career—eventually also working for the University of Iowa as a supervisor at the power plant—Ms. Swaney began the first phase of her own work life, raising their two daughters.
In 1986, she began the second phase, taking a position with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. “I started in what was called ‘Word Processing’ and later transcription.” Ms. Swaney says. She’s quick to clarify that although her skills have improved since then, “I wasn’t actually doing the typing.” Ms. Swaney was responsible for organizing the files and moving them through the process, arguably the more valuable set of skills for her to hone.
A few years later, Ms. Swaney could see that changes in technology and the organizational structure were on the horizon. At the same time, she saw an opportunity in the MSC. “I applied for it and got it and I’ve been here ever since,” she says with a smile. Of course, that underplays her steady progression within the MSC, eventually reaching her current level of responsibility. And given the size and scope of the MSC—one of the largest at the UI Hospitals and Clinics, comprising seven different specialties within Internal Medicine: Allergy, Endocrinology, General Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Nephrology, Pulmonary, and Rheumatology—Ms. Swaney’s responsibilities have a profound impact on a lot of providers, patients, and their care.
Getting patients to the clinic at a time when their provider is ready to see them is a very complicated process. Nearly 130 providers practice in the space on the third floor of Pomerantz Family Pavilion. And with anywhere from 100 to 200 patients walking through the front door each day, Ms. Swaney is a critical part of coordinating those two groups. She supervises the clerical staff members who sit on the “front lines,” greeting patients, checking them in, updating any records changes. This group ultimately serves as one of that patient’s first impressions of what his or her care experience will be like that day. She works with the Support Services Manager, Megan Beasmore, overseeing the scheduling of all these visitors to all these providers, maintaining the templates for the schedules, and helping perform adjustments, such as when a provider needs to close or move a clinic. “It’s a challenge for our clerical staff,” she says, “but they do a fantastic job. They’re a great group of people.”
Her colleagues feel similarly about her. Ms. Beasmore says, “Nancy has been a tremendous help to me since my arrival. She is extremely knowledgeable and really knows the division schedules and the MSC inside and out. She plays a key role in the clinic.” Trudy Laffoon, the Nursing Manger, agrees. She points out Ms. Swaney’s excellent rapport with patients, “individualizing her approach” so that she “provides an excellent customer experience to every patient, every time.” She goes on to point out the ways in which Ms. Swaney was critical to new initiatives such as a conversion from one scheduling software system to another. David Pasbrig, Support Services Specialist, says that Ms. Swaney has a “great combination of experience, humor, and intelligence (that) makes working with her just plain fun.”
When Ms. Swaney is not solving scheduling problems or leading initiatives to improve communication, reduce wait-times, or cut no-show rates by half, she is reveling in another relatively new phase of her life, grandmother. She says she also likes to garden and plans to enroll in “some classes of interest, anything I feel like I don’t understand well enough.” It’s not difficult to see how that curiosity about the world has helped make her such a critical member of the MSC and the university.