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      Familiar Faces at RGA: Savannah, Patricia and Heidy

      Infusion Group

      Earlier this year, Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) opened an infusion center inside our facility on Roxbury Road for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

      Individuals can receive their infusion medications at the same clinic where they see their RGA doctors and nurses. The medications help minimize flare-ups – symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain or bleeding – that can be common with IBD.

      In the months since the center opened, our three dedicated nursing team members have already developed close bonds with patients they see regularly. Those team members are: Savannah Patel, infusion assistant; Patricia Woody, infusion nurse; and Heidy Perez, infusion nurse. Read on to learn more about them and the infusion center at RGA.

      Question: What’s your background in the medical field?

      Savannah: I’ve been a certified nursing assistant (CNA) for seven years and got into the medical field as a lifeguard manager for the Rockford Park District. I’ve been at RGA for six years, and this was the place where I (always) wanted to be.

      Patricia: I’ve been a nurse for many years, starting as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and then becoming a registered nurse (RN). I’ve worked in pediatrics, geriatric care (including dialysis). In those areas, you knew your patients, and the same goes here. Infusion patients have strict guidelines on when they need their medicine, otherwise they don’t feel well. Because patients usually get their infusions every four to eight weeks, we’re able to bond with them, and seeing familiar faces are some of the best things for them.

      Heidy: I’ve been a nurse here for the past nine months and been in the medical field for nearly 20 years. I have worked in doctor’s offices and as a CNA and in phlebotomy. I heard about RGA through one of my coworkers who told me about the infusion position. As a phlebotomist, I thought I could use my skills to care for people who need infusions.

      Question: How do infusion services work?

      Heidy: Patients usually do their infusions for 2-2½ hours, others are here just 30 minutes depending on which medications they’re getting. We help prepare them and prepare the medications.

      Patricia: We help them prepare as much as possible to have good vein access and have a good run of the medication. If they’re not feeling as well as they should the day of their infusion, we can contact their doctors right then and there and usually get any issues resolved with a few hours. We also do iron infusions for anemia (low blood count), which is a common symptom of IBD. Patients come in, we get their IV started, and the medication flows through the IV.

      Question: How did you get interested in the digestive health/gastrointestinal (GI) field and working with infusion patients?

      Savannah: As soon as I came here and met the staff and the doctors, I knew this is where I wanted to be. They always made me feel welcome, asked questions and took time to get to know you. I came from the ambulatory surgery center (ASC), which is very fast-paced, and you see different patients every day. What intrigued me about the infusion center is forming relationships with patients, seeing them every four to six weeks, really getting to know them and letting them know what RGA is all about.

      Heidy: I really enjoy the relationships with patients and seeing them often, following up with how they’re doing and how the infusions are working for them. It’s important how we get to know them in case anything needs to be changed with their care.

      Patricia: GI and especially infusion are special areas. We tell new patients they will always see one of us or all three of us. There is a special bond between patients and us. We talk about anything and everything, from food to pets to kids – things that can help take their minds mind off why they’re here.

      Question: What are some of the benefits of RGA now offering infusion services?

      Savannah: We see patients from when they’re first diagnosed with IBD to when they’re in the middle of a flare-up. It’s nice to be here through the whole course of treatment, to see them getting better and living their lives not worried about the next bathroom stop. Doing infusions here at RGA also allows patients to get their next appointments scheduled right away. We also get to know patients and what they like. For some, we know what snack or juice they like; for one, we know to his iPad ready to go and what he wants to watch.

      Heidy: We’ve heard a couple patients say they appreciate that it’s a more private setting and it’s a more affordable option for them.

      Patricia: It’s also less waiting for the patients because we prepare the medications right here on site. We give a total of five IV medications for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and we do the iron infusions for anemia. Many patients are doing very well right now.

      Question: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you hear about digestive health care?

      Patricia: That it’s all about colonoscopies. There’s so much more involved with our GI tracts. People can have issues with their stomach, liver, pancreas, it’s the whole gamut.

      Savanah: Some patients get really discouraged when one medication doesn’t work or work right away. There are several other options to explore with the doctors to see what else might work for them. Our infusion patients come from all demographics. They’re ages 18 to 93, a split between men and women.