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2019 Health Care Champions Technician: Joanna Phemister

Mattax-Neu-Prater Eye Center Inc.

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As times change, so does health care and Joanna Phemister finds it a challenge to always be solutions-focused. The certified ophthalmic assistant says she feels a calling to take complaints and think of them as ideas for change.

“If you can broaden your focus beyond your own circumstances, then each problem becomes its own puzzle piece that you are trying to fit together to make a bigger picture,” she says.

“I love listening to patients and members of our team, and helping them look at issues from a different perspective to find a solution.”

Phemister says she likes to look outside the box, especially when it requires reading between the lines as people have difficulty expressing what they need.

“A patient may get upset that they can no longer read books due to poor vision, but what they are really saying is that their days seem long and lonely now that they don’t have a book to get lost in and pass the time,” she says.

Relating to patients professionally and as a person can make a difference in ophthalmology and health care, in general, Phemister says.

Recently, she and her co-workers applied this to a patient whose wife of over 50 years had died.

“He comes into the office on a monthly basis and shared with me that he was having a very hard time adjusting to his wife being gone,” she says. “She had always done the laundry and cooking, and he was struggling to learn how to take it all on now. I work with some incredible women and we decided to make him some freezer meals and cookies when he came into the office for his next visit. It meant the world to him.”

Phemister says her main motivation is helping advocate for patients, many of whom are 75 years old, or older.

“Many of these patients have lost their vision to age related diseases and can no longer drive, read or get around on their own,” she says.

“They are often fearful about what their future looks like and welcome the compassion and care of our team.”

Phemister has worked at Mattax Neu Prater since 2010, in three different roles, including technician, team leader in the cornea department, and now technician coordinator.

In her current role, she manages clinic flow for eight doctors, schedules over 30 technicians in multiple offices, leads weekly staff meetings, resolves conflicts for staff, creates new training protocols, works with patients, assists doctors and performs chart audits.

“This position allows me to focus on finding solutions for problems that arrive in staffing, training, continuing education, patient care and clinic flow,” she says.

Phemister says taking on that leadership position and being able to grow within the company has made all the difference.

“While my contributions to the health care field are not medical breakthroughs, the consistent care and compassion I give to my patients everyday makes an impact,” she says.

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