Intake Team Serves as Source of Comfort for Myeloma Center Patients

By Chris Carmody

“It’s important that we help them get established and make sure they’re comfortable coming here,” said Christy Bunting, an intake coordinator in the Myeloma Center. “We want them to know that they can relax because our doctors and staff are going to take care of them. They’re in the right place.”

Bunting and fellow intake coordinator April Thomas serve as the initial points of contact for any patient referred to the Myeloma Center. They gather medical and insurance records so the center can confirm the patient’s myeloma diagnosis and get insurance-company approval for a round of tests that help determine the best course of treatment.

Once they’re approved to proceed, Bunting and Thomas work with the patient to schedule an appointment that comprises three days of testing and a day of consultation with a doctor. The goal, barring any insurance delays, is to have each patient in for testing within 14 days of initial contact with the intake team.

“That’s not always feasible because of the insurance verification process, but we’re always trying to get our patients here as quickly as we can,” Thomas said.

When patients arrive at the Myeloma Center, they’re welcomed by intake nurses Melissa Thomas, RN, and Amy Ford, RN. The intake nurses help navigate the testing schedule and gather details about the patients’ health histories. That information is summarized for the doctors to give them a clearer picture as they map out a treatment plan.

“Some of our patients have received treatment before they get here,” Ford said. “In those cases, we input their outside results from bone marrow tests, lab work or radiology to help our doctors see where the patients started and where they are now.”

Intake nurses also address any immediate medical issues — such as pain or abnormal lab results — that arise as the patients arrive and undergo testing.

Melissa Thomas noted that the Myeloma Center sees patients in all stages of the disease. Many of them are experiencing significant pain, she said. For some, the disease has progressed to a point where they are using a wheelchair or are struggling to walk.

“The main thing for us is to help our patients and get them through the testing process,” she said.

The intake team members also recognize the emotional struggles that patients are going through. Bunting said she and her colleagues see people at their lowest points, and it’s important to be a voice of reassurance and kindness for patients who might feel anxious or overwhelmed.

“We give the same treatment to all of our patients,” Bunting said. “They’re all VIPs, and we try to do our best for each one of them.”

Bunting, April Thomas and Melissa Thomas have all worked in the Myeloma Center for about 20 years. Ford, a relative newcomer, started working at the Myeloma Center in 2006 and joined the intake team in 2012. This continuity provides an extra measure of comfort for patients, some of whom return to the center years after their initial treatment and find familiar faces to guide them.

Ford said the intake team has a vital role in ensuring that patients have a positive experience at the Myeloma Center.

“I think a lot of people like having that one-on-one contact as we help them understand this process,” Ford said. “We might have to explain things four or five times, but that’s OK with us. We want to let them know that someone’s here to intercede for them in any way possible.”