Shawn Trammell has been working at our Brooklyn East site for almost 30 years. Today, as a senior dialysis technician, he is a member of the clinical team who connect patients to dialysis machines and monitor them during treatment. He is also one of the technicians who participated in the pilot program that helped Rogosin Brooklyn East achieve 5 stars in Patient Satisfaction. (See article). We asked Shawn to speak a little about his experiences working with patients:
How did you get involved in kidney care?
In 1994, I graduated high school and was trying to find my way. I had been raised by a single mother and had to contribute to the household, so I needed a job. One of my childhood friends worked at Brooklyn East, and my grandmother was receiving treatment there for kidney failure. They were looking for a part-time per diem unit clerk, and my friend encouraged me to apply.
How did having a grandmother with kidney disease affect you?
When I was 16, my grandmother started having health issues and began receiving treatment. I didn’t know what dialysis was and as a teenager I didn’t ask a lot of questions. When I toured the facility during my interview, it was overwhelming for me. I started to understand what my grandmother was going through. At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to work there, but it helped to begin in a clerical role. Today, remembering my grandmother helps me understand what our patients go through.
How did you go from clerical work to being a technician?
I went from part-time to full-time in the clerk role, and then became a set-up tech, making sure all the necessary supplies were available for technicians. I did that for about two years, when a memo came around that they were offering technician training, which in those days was done on-site. I decided to try for it and became a technician and then a senior technician.
You’ve been doing this a long time. What do you like best about your job?
I love working with our patients. I am not well traveled, but I feel I have traveled the world with our patients. We have patients from so many different cultures and places. They are fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. I enjoy talking with them and learning from them. It is so important to see patients as people, who are so much more than their disease.
I also work with a great team. We have seen each other through some of the toughest times, always coming together to keep the clinic running for our patients. We really banded together during the early days of COVID-19, which was very scary from a dialysis perspective. In March of 2020, I was hospitalized for over two weeks with COVID-19. My colleagues texted and called me every day when I was in the hospital. When I got out of the hospital, they dropped off food at my home. These are the kind of people I work with.
You participated in the pilot program, coming in over the weekend to talk to patients. What would you like to share?
Being part of the program gave me time to just speak with patients to learn more about their experiences. Sometimes patients think that we don’t understand how hard this is for them. They can’t just up and go to a wedding in another country. They can’t go to an event and eat and drink whatever they want. They have lost a lot because of this disease. We do understand, but sometimes we get lost because we are focused on doing the tasks of our jobs. Talking to patients helps me remember why I am here. You can learn so much from a patient in a short time. The goal of the program was to learn how to improve what we are doing for patients, but I think the act of sitting and talking helps them know that we understand.