An Interview with Dan Sheffer, Lead Athletic Trainer – Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital
An Interview with Dan Sheffer, Lead Athletic Trainer – Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital
Can you tell me more about Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital? How do you differ from other hospital systems?
Our Lady of Lourdes is a community hospital. We just celebrated our 90th anniversary. We are incredibly entrenched in the community. Our focus is compassionate care and outreach into the community. We've have a strong foundation and we're excited to be in this community and be an integral part of it. That said, we are also part of something bigger. Lourdes is part of Ascension. Ascension merged some smaller, religious-based healthcare systems in the late '90s and early 2000s. Now Ascension is the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the largest Catholic health system in the world. Their network includes 141 hospitals and 2500 sites of care in 24 states with 150,000 associates. We have things that we know are pertinent to our community and then we also have partners that we can turn to and say, "Can you give us a suggestion for this?” or “What is your process for this procedure?”. It’s wonderful to have 140 other sister hospitals in your back pocket that you can call and get feedback from on various topics.
How large is Lourdes?
We are licensed for 197 beds and have more than 2,200 employees.
You work in the Rehabilitation Department. Can you tell me about its function?
Lourdes has a comprehensive rehabilitation department. It encompasses phenomenal inpatient and outpatient PT, OT, and speech therapy to serve both our surgical and non-surgical patient population, and ambulatory and inpatient surgery. There are a lot of components of “good medicine”. However, the one component that we didn’t have was a sports medicine department. There was a local competitor servicing some schools in the community through their program, but we noticed there were a lot of schools and other organizations that weren't getting any sports medicine services. This is when Lourdes realized that there was a healthcare need in the community. In mid-2015, the hospital made the decision to add sports medicine to the rehabilitation department. I was brought in the latter half of 2015 to spearhead this initiative. Since then we've brought on other staff as we've started to secure more cooperative agreements, contracts, and partnerships. Now we have an incredible sports medicine department that includes athletic trainers, therapists, sports medicine primary care physicians, and orthopedic physicians. This allows us to really get out there and be an outreach presence in this community.
Who are the typical types of clients your sports medicine program works with?
Our primary customers are schools, pre- and post-joint surgery patients, and club/indoor facilities patrons. The school setting is a nice fit with my experience. I came from a background of collegiate and high school athletic training in very traditional settings, so I have a lot of exposure to the school environment. Then there's our club population that tends to congregate at some of the local indoor facilities. These indoor facilities rent out their turf surface for local clubs and leagues; one does primarily soccer while the other is primarily softball, baseball, and lacrosse. It gives people a place to play during the winter months when the weather is bad. These facilities see thousands of people over the course of the week but had no care on site, so we started to build relationships with that organization as well.
Our hospital patients that have partial and total joint surgeries make up another sizeable portion of the clients we see as well. We have a "joint academy" where we encourage people to be a part of a structured system where they come in and become educated on the entire process. They learn about the procedure that is going to happen, whether they are getting a partial or total joint surgery. They are instructed in rehab with them and further explain the surgical process. Post-op, they will naturally see us for inpatient and outpatient PT. This model has been a huge success. This benefits patients who otherwise would not have complete prehab and can potentially decrease their post-surgical rehab needs, and it really makes a difference in how quickly they recover as well as ensuring they are knowledgeable about the process and importance of rehab.
Another group we service is through our partnership with the local YMCA. Now there is an athletic trainer on site there. I do not know of anybody else in the country who is doing this. Generally, someone in their 50s or 60s is your primary joint replacement candidate. It is a great partnership where we can promote the athletic trainer resource at the Y. Individuals can come to the Y and get free advice on how to do their prehab, and even do prehab with an athletic trainer if they would like. Of course, the Y also offers a tremendous array of other courses. Our athletic trainer is well versed on what those courses entail so they can pick and choose the ones that are perfect for each individual who walks in the door. Having an on-site expert eliminates the guess work for clients who may not be sure if a class is right for them.
Our partnership with the YMCA is an incredibly unique model that I never anticipated we would incorporate. It's been such a great step forward in our program to do something outside-the-box that offers a real resource to the community. Traditionally, our athletic trainers have been in high schools or local community colleges that do not have a full-time staff member. So, it's exciting to explore non-traditional settings and offer a beneficial service that was not available before. We are excited to continue to grow our program to expand in more non-traditional athletic training environments in our community.
Can you talk a little about your background, education, and experience?
My experience was primarily collegiate athletic training for the bulk of the last 15 years. Prior to that, I was teaching in public schools for a while and volunteered as an athletic trainer while I was there. This gave me a taste of the high school sports environment. I worked with a single A baseball team for one season while in that setting. But the bulk of my experience has been in a collegiate athletic training setting, mostly in upstate New York. I was at the College of St. Rose for two years, then the University of Albany for two and a half years. After that, I worked at Southern Vermont College for two years, and then most recently Utica College for 13 years as their head athletic trainer.
What does an average day look like for you?
I don't know that I have a typical day. More often than not, I'm in the office in the morning. That gives me time to organize the program and run it from here. I generally spend my early afternoons getting out to schools that we have agreements with. I'll visit a bunch of those schools and other sites in the early afternoon. This allows me to catch students before they go to practice at a variety of locations.
Once that's done, I can reach out to my full-time staff. I will visit the schools they’re at and give them a hand, or make sure things are going well. I don't always get a chance to see them here in the office. For this reason, it works out best for me to go to them. This allows me to give them a hand, talk through an issue they are having, help solve a problem, spend some time with their administration, or ensure everyone is getting what they need.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I enjoy that every day is a little different. And that is probably true for most athletic trainers - every day is just a little different. Even though you have a structure to your day, something is going to change. And that's okay. I really enjoy being able to meet the sports medicine needs of the community. We don't have to necessarily compete with anybody because there's such a need at this point. We go out and educate the community on what we offer and once they understand, they welcome the help. We have a framework, but we also have flexibility. If a staff member comes to me with a good idea, we have the flexibility in the framework to pursue it.
It's extremely exciting and fulfilling to be part of a program like this from its infancy. You get to experience how it's grown and be a part of its success. The administration has been so supportive and values my ideas on how the program should be run. It's really more than I could have hoped for.
How long have you been using SportsWare?
If my memory serves me correctly, I was first exposed to SportsWare as a student athletic trainer in the early '90s, and it was a DOS-based version at that point. Pretty much everyone else was using paper. And that is what I used after graduation - index cards, or full sheets of paper per evaluation. It wasn't until 2000 when I became a head athletic trainer and the decision rested on me. I went to an EATA convention in Boston and met with a few EMR companies. I knew other athletic trainers who were using SportsWare and after some research, I knew that was the program I wanted to use. When I went to Utica College in 2002, I implemented it there. I switched to the online version in roughly 2011 and have been using the online version exclusively ever since.
How does having SportsWare impact your job?
Even when we only had the desktop version, just to have all of our records electronically and be able to sort, produce, print, and read records legibly was a huge impact for us. It saved so much time by not having to search through piles and piles of paper. The ability to pull out a treatment on a specific day was just phenomenal. And once we got the online version, not only did we have all of those benefits, but also the option of portability. I could access all of my records from any location. I have different staff members at different locations, and I have the ability to see in real time as they're adding their notes. I can see what they're adding, and then comment back to them about something I just saw added. I also have the ability to look at trends, sort by schools, or pretty much any other data you can imagine.
For me, using SportsWare was initially just injury documentation. It's well beyond that. It's gone into more injury tracking at this point. I can track injury trends and see if there's a trend at a particular school, or a particular sport across schools. And then I can run reports to take all of that data to say, "This is how many athletes we come into contact with, this is how many injuries we've seen, how many treatments we do in a day.” But I can also say, “These are the trends, and this is how many referrals went out, and this is how many of our students are in PT right now and how many have been in PT over the course of the year." I can do all of that from an injury standpoint, and then there's all the admin stuff behind the scenes. The ability to add appointments is just awesome - a student can log in and make an appointment with me without having to call.
At the beginning of the day, I can just pull up SportsWare and look at my calendar, and say, "Okay, I've got seven appointments today.” All of that flexibility is awesome. I can also assign a task to a particular user about a particular treatment or in general, and they can assign a task back to me to say, "Hey, I need help here”. All of those little flagging systems are nice from an admin perspective as well.
How many users are currently using the program?
What has your experience been with our customer and technical support?
Oh, it's been great. For a long time, I would call Sue directly and just say, "Hey Sue, this is my problem, and these are the six things that I've tried to fix it, and I'm stuck." And Sue would generally say, "Okay then, I'm going to have to get back to you, because those were the six things I was going to suggest." And then typically, in other realms of my life, that would mean I'd get an answer back in three days. And typically with Sue, I'd get an answer back in 15 minutes. And it might be a phone call, it might be an email: "Hey, I took care of that for you. It's all set. Go ahead and log back in. And as soon as you log in, it'll correct itself." So for a long time, that was our experience. And then when I came over to Lourdes, we started using Chris as our rep, and I've started to build a rapport with Chris and take advantage of his expertise. And so a lot of times I can call Chris and just say, "Hey, what do you think of this or that?" and he can mitigate most of that for me. It's been great.
More often than not, I'm calling because it's a new feature that we're excited about that was something that we needed that we didn't even know we needed. Occasionally, I call and say, "Hey, you know what? I noticed that something happens in the athlete and the treatment tab and it's exactly what I would want. But for some reason, it's not consistent across other tabs." And I'll call Sue or drop Sue an email, or now Chris, and say, "Hey, can you make this more consistent?" And they'll say, "Yeah, that's something that we were looking into. We've been talking about that. We're going to kick that around and see if we can't work out the bugs and try to get in the next release." More often than not, I do see the types of ideas that we suggest in some fashion in the next roll out, which is cool because then you really do feel like your thoughts and opinions are not only being heard but are being acted upon. So it's nice.
Are there any trends that you're seeing in the athletic training/sports medicine community?
The big trend for us in the hospital right now is trying to prepare for a bundle payment model. I think that's a medicine-wide trend. And as we prepare for that, we're trying to use any data that we can to try to figure out how people are currently using healthcare and the more we understand about how they're using it, the better we can streamline where some of the excess is. SportsWare is helping us to better understand how our population is using healthcare. But that's more of a general medical trend. I think outside of SportsWare, a sports medicine or athletic training trend I've seen is that more and more people are appreciating an injury tracking software in general, and getting away from pencil and paper because it's just not an efficient way to keep records anymore. So I think that's a trend, and I think that people are appreciating athletic trainers more. Also, as more and more community organizations and more schools are recognizing the need, I think you're going to find one athletic trainer in two or three different locations So they're going to need to be portable, and their records are going to need to be portable with them, so I think more people are finding themselves in need of something that solves that for them.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your position, organization, etc.?
It's exciting to be a part of a program that's growing. We were excited to bring SportsWare onboard because I knew that I had a great experience with SportsWare in the past. And then, I walk in the door and realize that I'm not even taking advantage of SportsWare to its fullest potential, and I'm using features now that I hadn't used in the past. It’s neat to see that there are things that have been right there under my nose all the time and it was just waiting for me to be ready for it, if you will. I still feel like I'm playing catch-up to utilize SportsWare to its fullest potential. I'm excited to see in five years what is already in SportsWare now that I'm going to be using in five years.
SportsWare is flexible enough that I can have a junior in high school, a forty-year-old housewife, and a sixty-five-year-old retiree, and SportsWare can be flexible enough to have all three of those people exist in the system at the same time. That just makes my life easy. I really didn't expect to be doing a whole lot of sports medicine with an aging population, a working-class population and a high school population, and I've got four-year-old soccer players at the same time. Not fourth grade, four-year-olds. So to be doing such a wide gamut of ages is cool, and it's neat to see things across the spectrum.
I’m excited to be a part of a healthcare system that's growing. Sue and I were just talking the other day, and there's another one of our sister hospitals in New York who's also using SportsWare. It was really cool to be able to call them and say, “Hey, what are you doing with your sports medicine program? How does that interact with SportsWare?” and to try to pick their brain a little bit. Same situation: I read the Onsite Innovations article and I realized Joe Davies works five miles down the road from me and I had never met the guy. SportsWare was a great excuse to meet him and learn about another community athletic trainer and then, at the same time, pick his brain and say, “Okay, what are you doing, and what pieces of that can I borrow from you to make my organization better?” It's another tool that's bringing athletic trainers together. He and I talked a couple of times via email and he personally knows some of the athletic trainers in our department, but I hadn't met him yet. So, he and I meet in a week or two over coffee and we're going to talk about sports medicine in the area, and talk about what he's doing with SportsWare over a wide system. I don't know how expansive SportsWare is for him, but I think it's fairly expansive in a lot of different sites.
It’s exciting to have somebody blow my mind a little bit and then think, “Oh yeah, okay. That's how this can grow.” Then that helps me as I make smaller decisions along the way, to make sure that I'm always on track for how things can grow best. It helps keep those smaller day-to-day things on track if you have a better sense of where they can go in the future.
For more information about Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital, visit them on the web at: www.lourdes.com