When Bayhealth's Emergency Center in Smyrna opened its doors on December 2012, the staff expected to see close to 500 patients in the first several months.

A few weeks in, that number was a distant memory.

Since December, the story of the Bayhealth facility has been one of exceeding expectations, in all sorts of ways.

"I knew right away I was going to have to go back to leadership and ask for more space," said Patricia Fuller, FACHE, MBA, MEd, RN, CEN, NE-BC, Director of Emergency and Trauma Services.

Kim Ford, RN, BSN, CRN, Nurse Manager at the Smyrna Emergency Center, quickly revised the staffing plan to meet growing volumes.

She has increased the nursing staff by 20 percent and has added a physician's assistant and nurse practitioner for busy days. An emergency scribe works seven days a week to assist with documentation so medical staff can devote more time to patients.

The facility's relatively small size allows for unique team dynamics. Many of the staff wear more than one hat.

Amy Bradford, MT, ASCP, Medical Technologist, works in the lab processing samples, but also assists with registration, patient vital signs, phlebotomy, and general housekeeping.

"Everyone takes an interest in what others are doing. We all step in to help when needed and teach each other about the different roles," she said. "It's a real team environment."

ll employees experience a high level of patient contact at the Smyrna Emergency Center. Because nurses, physicians, medical technologists, and imaging technologists work side by side, collaboration is the order of the day.

"Patient care is excellent because we all work so closely together. Laboratory professionals, physicians, and nurses can talk to each other in the moment about situations that might be causing certain outcomes," explained Steven Talbot, DO, Medical Director of the Smyrna Emergency Center.

Jeffrey Gloss, who earned a degree in chemical engineering from Villanova University in 2012, serves as the scribe at the Smyrna Emergency Center. He enters patient information as dictated by the provider – symptoms, tests, and diagnoses – into charts so that physicians can devote more time to patient care.

Completing medical charts gives Gloss a first-hand perspective on the range of medical issues that bring people to the Emergency Center – everything from bee stings to abdominal pain or heart attacks.

"Working here has been an amazing experience that's solidified my desire to practice medicine," Gloss said. "Observing how the staff takes care of patients has inspired me."

For Brooke Zingone, RN, a nurse at the Emergency Center, one of its greatest strengths is the staff's cumulative years of experience. Sharing best practices with colleagues, some of whom have been in their professions for over 20 years, is a tremendous asset in an environment where each new patient may present with a radically different set of issues.

"Most of our staff have between 10-17 years of experience," she said. "We are a wonderful resource for each other."

High patient satisfaction scores attest to the impact of staff dynamics. In one recent month, 92 percent of patients reported that they received "very good" care, and the facility was nominated for two Bayhealth Service Excellence Awards by patients and employees.

Local residents appreciate the Bayhealth Emergency Center's proximity, as do area family physicians.

"The Bayhealth Emergency Center has made life a lot easier for our patients and for us," said Sally Fessler, medical assistant to Dr. Robert C. Donlick, of Clayton. "Our patients have been able to go there and be seen right away. With the Bayhealth online portal, I am able to easily access lab results and discharge instructions for follow-up care."

The busiest times are weekday evenings and Saturday mornings. In April 2013, the Smyrna Emergency Center saw 1,236 patients.