Emergency Department Navigator Dawn Lee
Dawn Lee, Emergency Department (ED) Navigator, stands in front of Michael Garron Hospital’s ED Green Zone. (Photo: MGH)

ED Navigators enhance Emergency Department journey for patients and staff

“How much longer do I have to wait”?

This is not an uncommon question in Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) busy Emergency Department (ED), which saw more than 80,000 visits last year.

In her new part-time position, Dawn Lee is prepared to respond to this frequently asked question and many others.

A reassuring smile paired with her bright green “Ask Me” shirt, Dawn is one of five ED Navigators at MGH helping to create a supportive and accessible environment to help streamline a patient’s journey in the ED, with the goal of reducing wait times.

 “I love working with people and have found a special kind of teamwork here at the hospital.
I get to know and interact with everyone; patients and staff alike,” says Dawn.

“I have come to realize the importance of knowing the broader team – housekeepers, residents, consult staff and others. Everyone plays a role and needs to be in the loop to keep patients from falling through the cracks.”

The ED Navigator program began as a pilot project in 2017 and evolved into a permanent program last year. ED Navigators like Dawn primarily support with patient flow and ensuring people move through their emergency department journey as quickly as possible. This may include: assigning and placing patients in rooms, ensuring tests are completed and queueing charts in order, following up on test results, flagging doctors when results are in, coordinating the paging of consults, finding medical equipment, and much more.

Dr. Kyle Vojdani, interim Chief of the Emergency Department and Medical Director of Emergency Services, describes the navigator program “as a real success.”

“Navigators fill in a lot of medical and social needs in the department, increase efficiency for the clinical team and provide better support for patients. Most importantly, they help everyone know where every patient is,” says Dr. Vojdani.

“Navigators are not overly involved in the medical side but they keep an eye on things, know where patients are in the system and coordinate the flow, which is very important for both patients and the clinical staff.”

Equally important, ED Navigators are there for patients who want to be reassured that someone is caring for them and that they are not forgotten. Navigators visit patients hourly in the waiting room and update wait times on the departmental white board.

For most patients, Dawn is there from the time they come in until they are discharged, and many express their appreciation when they leave.

“Little things mean a lot. It really helps patients to know they have a point person they can go to,” says Dawn.

“We also offer little things (like a blanket) to provide comfort and make people feel tended to, and they are very grateful.”

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