ON THE JOB
Service Specialist II, Johns Hopkins Home Care Group
To deliver oxygen, you have to have a commercial driver's license with a hazardous materials endorsement, the same as a guy driving a gas truck. Every two years, you take a 50-question hazmat test. You couldn't just walk in and pass. You have to study hard. Which is great, because it helps you stay up on what's going on. It makes me feel better as a driver. You don't wanna get relaxed. That's when you stop paying attention and end up getting hurt.
A lot of drivers don't like doing oxygen because it's
heavy-two of the tanks we deliver weigh 120 pounds, one model weighs
160 pounds. I played sports in high school. I like being physically
fit. We have a lift to help load the truck at the warehouse, and we
use hand trucks and wear our back braces. But to get the oxygen tanks
into people's houses, sometimes you have to carry them up the steps.
Maybe they have nice wood on the stairs, and they don't want the hand
truck scratching it or getting caught in their carpet.
I like dealing with the public. You see the result right
away. I've been doing this for 12 years, with three different companies.
I've been with the Hopkins Home Care Group now for seven years. I used
to work as a busboy at the Hyatt Regency and I've been a limousine driver.
Being as I've done this a long time, you realize how important your
delivery is. People depend on you. You're bringing a piece of equipment
that's gonna save their life or help them breathe. The minute you walk
in that door, they need your attention, they need your help. I put myself
in their shoes and try to put them at ease when they're just coming
out of the hospital.
We show them how to use the tanks, how to clean them.
We go over safety precautions-no tubing under carpets because it can
dry rot, and you don't wanna be anywhere near a flame within a 10-foot
radius. If they have the big tank, the C-31, we always instruct them
to call us if they want it moved. If it tips over, the oxygen can cause
the metal part here to become so cold your hands would stick to it if
you touch it. You can get frostbite from oxygen.
I try to keep it basic and not overload them with a lot
of technical information. Sometimes you have to go over the instructions
four or five times, and the more you train, the more comfortable they're
gonna feel. After I instruct, I turn around and act like I'm the patient
and have them re-instruct me. A lot of people are afraid to ask questions.
They're trying to get you out. When they instruct back to me, it calms
them down and makes them feel comfortable with me in their house, right
from the start.
I usually go ahead and work the holidays. For patients
who are on 2 liters of oxygen a minute, a tank lasts seven and a half
days. I have one gentleman who's on 6 liters a minute. I go to him twice
a week. If I missed one of his deliveries because of a holiday, I'd
have to go back and try to fit him into my regular schedule.
We depend a lot on our radios, and for three or four
days after Sept. 11, we did have communication problems because the
airspace was taken up. Within 24 hours, everyone was put on standby
notice and we used our telephone tree to keep in touch. For three weeks,
we called in after every two deliveries. We did encounter tighter security
in places like high-rises, but our routes stayed pretty much the same.
Patients were so worried they wouldn't get their deliveries. What if
you have a kid who needs a trach collar? When you're healthy and something
throws you off your routine, it's frustrating. When there's a medical
issue, it's a catastrophe. We let them know nothing had changed.
This is probably the best overall system and crew I've
worked with. You can depend on people. In a crisis, Deeley [Middleton,
Pediatrics at Home senior director] or Penny [Carey, Pharmaquip director]
don't hesitate to grab a van and do a delivery. I've seen Steve [Johnson,
Home Care Group president] grab tanks and say, I'll drop them off. They
do the same thing you would do.
Even with all the different people going in all different
houses, you start getting the same feedback from patients. They say
everyone who comes through the door has the same response to what the
person needs, the same pride in what they do. I know all the drivers
have that attitude. You're more than just a delivery guy.
-Reported by Mary Ann Ayd