Behind Every ER Visit: The Essential Role of Patient Registration Associates at Penn State Health

In a bright hospital emergency room a female patient, wearing glasses and a blue shirt, is lying in a bed, covered by a white blanket. A smiling patient registration associate in a burgundy sweater stands at a mobile computer station to the right, amidst various medical devices.

A trip to the emergency room is something no one wants to experience. People arrive by ambulance and by car, hurting and scared. Fast, quality care is essential—but so is a friendly face to comfort patients during their stay.

April 9, 2024Penn State Health News

The first person patients usually see when they arrive at the emergency department (ED) is a patient registration associate. At Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, it’s someone like Kathleen Price or Tracy Wallish.

Part of the ED registration team, Price and Wallish greet patients and collect all the information needed for accurate registration. They check patients’ insurance coverage, verify their eligibility and benefits, and ensure admissions and observations meet regulatory standards. While managing the busy department, they also lend patients an empathetic ear.

Delivering crucial support

Patients move in and out of the ED constantly. During a rush, the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center ED could have more than 150 patients.

Especially during those busy times, the support provided by registration associates is crucial. They handle administrative tasks and help improve patient experience. Besides managing the arrival and checkout desks, the registration associates also roam the department with their workstation on wheels. They visit each patient room to collect information and offer support between check-ins from nurses and doctors.

Price and Wallish both have backgrounds in customer service, so their shift to providing high-quality care for patients was a relatively easy transition.

Price joined Penn State Health seven years ago, bringing experience from the hospitality and insurance industries. After dealing with her own health challenges, she saw this job as the perfect way to give back to those who supported her.

“I’ve been in customer service for 40-some years, and now I’m a huge patient advocate,” said Price. “This is my dream job.”

Creating heartfelt connections

A female registration associate, wearing glasses and maroon scrubs, smiles while working on a computer tablet in a hospital emergency room, with a male patient seated in the background, wearing a striped shirt.

While Price and Wallish’s customer service skills are invaluable, working as an ED registration associate still has its challenges.

“Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is a Level 1 trauma center, so it can be overwhelming at times,” Wallish said. “We get people coming in with everything from broken bones to heart attacks to gunshot injuries.” Yet, despite the intensity and fast-paced nature of the ED, Wallish and Price agree working there is incredibly fulfilling because they can make a real difference in people’s lives when they need it most.

During a 12-hour shift, they might meet an elderly woman recovering from a fall, a child needing stitches after getting hurt at the playground or an individual recovering from sexual assault. Wallish tells herself to approach each situation one step at a time and lean on the support of her coworkers. “We work as a team,” she said. “We’re always there to support each other.”

An overhead perspective of a cheerful medical staff member in glasses and a red jacket, with a nametag, standing in a clinic room, smiling at a patient out of view

Some patients come in without family to help them. Just to brighten one elderly patient’s day, Price asked her, “Can I adopt you as my grandmother? You look so much like her, and I really loved her.”

Like Price, Wallish enjoys creating deep connections with patients. Her favorite part of the job is meeting so many different people and helping them throughout each shift.

“We’re not nurses or doctors, but anything we can do to make patients feel more comfortable—even for a minute—makes it worthwhile,” Wallish said. Every now and then, she receives a heartfelt thank you from a patient or family member, reminding her why her work is so valuable.

Ready to make a difference?

If you’re passionate about providing exceptional patient care in a fast-paced environment, being an ED registration associate might be your calling.

Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is looking for registration associates to join our team. The position offers a three-week, paid training period. After completing the training, you’ll shadow an experienced associate to help you get ready to navigate the busy ED on your own.

Apply now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *