For more than a decade, Ernest Gajczak has worked in Materials Management at Massachusetts General Hospital—first as a customer service representative and since July 2019, as a patient escort within the Emergency Department (ED), transporting patients needing radiology evaluations to the appropriate areas. As the pandemic began to take hold, the ED became the centralized port for all COVID-19 testing, and Gajczak found himself instead transporting patients who were at risk for COVID-19, as well as those who were confirmed positive.
This meant a significant change to how Gajczak carried out his daily role. He now had to focus on the proper use of personal protective equipment when transporting COVID-risk or COVID-positive patients, as well as the cleaning of his equipment after every use. “We had to learn new procedures, how to use new equipment and how to safely interact with COVID-19 patients,” says Gajczak. “I’ve also adopted the basic safety guidelines—wash your hands thoroughly, wear a mask, don’t touch your face with your hands and clean your equipment—as my personal motto to help keep as healthy as possible.”
Working with patients is very personal. I see a member of my family reflected in every patient and that makes me want to provide the best service for them. I only hope this level of care has left a positive impact on patients coping with such a serious illness.
Patient escort at Mass General
In the early days of the pandemic, it was difficult for Gajczak not to be concerned about becoming infected, but his dedication to providing patients with compassionate care outweighed these fears. “It was so important to show each patient full respect and care as they too were scared at the uncertainty of this virus,” says Gajczak. “The last thing I ever wanted a patient to experience—even for a second—was any apprehension in my interactions with them. My goal was to help patients feel that, despite that situation, here at Mass General there are people ready to take care of them no matter what.”
Despite the stress of the pandemic and the increased safety precautions, Gajczak still maintains a sense of hope and dedication to his role because of his personal experience with COVID-19. “My father, who lives in Poland, got COVID-19. Because he is paralyzed from a stroke, I was very worried about him, but amazingly his body reacted well and he eventually recovered,” says Gajczak. “Taking care of my patients is very personal and has helped me to overcome tough times and each patient transport I did was dedicated to my father. I see a member of my family reflected in every patient and that makes me want to provide the best service for them. I only hope this level of care has left a positive impact on patients coping with such a serious illness.”