BAMA Heroes: Alexander Chien, Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Graduate

Medical Assistant PhlebotomyIn this installment of BAMA Heroes working on the frontline during COVID-19, we meet Alexander Chien who is a graduate of Bay Area Medical Academy’s Medical Assistant with Phlebotomy Program.

Alexander has quickly become a valuable and respected employee at Stanford Healthcare especially with his work at South and East Bay COVID-19 screening sites.

Let’s hear from Alexander.

Q: Where do you work?

Currently, I work as a Patient Care Coordinator I (Medical Assistant I) with the Clinical Float Staff at Stanford Healthcare, based in Palo Alto. As a member of the clinical float staff, on a normal work week, I am placed at any of the 45+ clinics that need support. This can include rooming patients and taking vitals and histories, administrative duties of check in or out, and any additional help when rooming patients, including diagnostic procedures like ultrasound, EKG, and phlebotomy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been regularly assigned to the COVID-19 screening sites in Palo Alto and Emeryville.

Q: What do you like most about your current job?

As a Patient Care Coordinator within the Clinical Float Staff, I have the opportunity to experience and observe all the different clinics within Stanford, although we as floats are not contracted to go to the other 65+ clinics. Although many clinical duties encompass rooming, performing vitals, patient histories, and checking in or out, each clinic also has its own unique tasks or responsibilities. I have been placed in about four different clinics including [cancer] Infusion Center, Neurology, and Endocrinology. For Neurology, I have been asked to perform orthostatic BP or Ishihara/vision tests. For Dermatology, I took pictures of abnormal skin structures and prepared removal kits to either punch or slice the abnormality to be sent to the lab. The vast possibility allows me to be able to experience and observe new things, including watching a cyst removal surgery and a thyroid biopsy, things I would not be able to view in a small urgent care clinic.

Before COVID-19, I was able to meet and interact with many different patients. Not only was I responsible for my duties, I also had to practice C-I-CARE with patients, often telling them what I will be doing and who would be coming in after me. Communication with patients and staff was very important to ensure a good workflow. Additionally, I had to convey any delays to the patients and provide a reason. I had learned from my training that one cannot provide simple explanations. Through my interactions with patients, I have received positive feedback on my care to patients. Additionally, many clinics have been impressed with my work ethics and hard work fulfilling my duties in their clinic. As a float, I am not attached to the clinic permanently, so it requires to always give your best to the clinic because they are “hiring” you for the day. It is nice to hear when clinic staff complement you and are happy when you are assigned to the clinic. Furthermore, at the COVID-19 sites, I am usually assigned to traffic duties because I am better at organizing logistics and planning, which originated both in scouting and my research laboratory position, before becoming a Medical Assistant. It gives me a sense of being humble when patients thank me for my service at the COVID-19 testing sites.

Medical Assistant Phlebotomy
Alexander’s first day at a COVID-19 screening site. Alexander is fourth from the left.

Q: Please describe your typical working day right now dealing with COVID-19.

Currently,  I am at the COVID-19 screening sites in Palo Alto or Emeryville. Depending on shift times, I will assist in setting up, including talking with my assigned nurse about how they would like to be organized when swabbing patients, as each nurse has their own preference. Before shift starts, I am assigned one of three duties to assist in the swabbing sites: Traffic, Computer, or Processor. Traffic is responsible for not only organizing the flow of traffic to the various lanes (one for pediatric, two for research, one for occupational health, and up five for the general public), but also has to determine which lane to send the patient. This involves asking questions and checking the schedule and presence of an electronic order. Additionally, as first contact, they are required to deal with any problems arising. These include explaining to the patient what can be done if an order is missing, how to schedule an appointment if they walked in, and other traffic logistics including when to stop cars in lanes on breaks. Missing orders are sent to the Charge Nurse to put in the order. Computer is responsible for checking in and out patients and printing sample labels. They must determine which tests (COVID-19 and/or strep swab) is needed. Additionally, they place labels on collection tubes and hand the kits to the Nurse. For symptomatic patients, they must also “vital” patients and put the appropriate notes. Processor is responsible to double checking the sample is viable (enough liquid, not leaking, appropriate labels and order form) to be sent to the lab. They must also log that the sample was collected and picked up. Additionally, I now also performing phlebotomy for COVID-19 research, giving instructions to Stanford employees on how to perform the self-test (COLOR), as well as handling logistics for distribution to various clinics unable to get them in person, and I am also performing COVID vaccines on patients.

Q: What is it like to work right now being a healthcare worker having to deal with COVID-19?

While working at the COVID-19 testing site, it has been very rewarding to do my part to help stem the rise of the virus. Patients have been very appreciative of our efforts, treating us with the same gratitude to service many in the military enjoy. Currently, we see around 600 patients a day in the general public lanes. Although we have a set routine, it has become sometimes very routine with little change; however, it is something that needs to be done. It has been emotionally tiring as it is hard to see so many patients, and at the end of shift I often have to take a nap in the parking lot before driving back home or else I start falling asleep behind the wheel.

Q: How do you feel going to school at Bay Area Medical Academy prepared you for your current position?

Bay Area Medical Academy definitely helped me prepare for the health profession. With the information and especially hands on experience in injections, patient care, wound care, it put me beyond the normal knowledge of a Medical Assistant. However, to be fair, I also have more science knowledge and training than some Medical Assistants. I completed both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in a human-related sciences. I also spent several years as a Research Laboratory and Clinical Research Technician focusing on diabetes research or noting observations for a MS phase IV drug trial. Additionally, my experiences in scouting and general work ethics make me an ideal clinical float Medical Assistant, and many clinics have expressed that they are impressed with me. With BAMA, I was able to hone my knowledge on certain systems and the hands on experience was invaluable. I recall taking BP in a physiology course and being unable to hear any of the Korotkoff sounds. With BAMA and continuous practice, I was able to provide accurate BP. The knowledge and experience from the Medial Assistant Instructor have benefited me greatly and it has only increased my knowledge base in the healthcare field.

Thanks for answering our questions, Alexander! We appreciate all you and your colleagues are doing at this critical time. Keep up the great teamwork!