Monday, January 9, 2012

After 12 years, Dr. Servideo Steps Down as ED Chairman

Dr. Joseph Servideo, board-certified in emergency medicine, has stepped down as chairman of Fauquier Hospital’s Emergency Department, a post he held for 12 years. He remembered, “When I started here in 1995, we had nine exam rooms and one quarter of the space the ED’s 29 rooms now occupy. We didn’t have any physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners. It was one doctor working 12-hour shifts. We saw about 18,000 patients a year back then. In 2011, we will have seen 35,000.”

First board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Servideo started out in private practice, but always had a soft spot for emergency medicine. He moonlighted at the hospital as early as the 1970s. “Emergency medicine has a certain excitement to it. It is highly variable; you never know what’s coming through the door. In one day, you might see very complicated cases as well as more straightforward ones.”

He remembers the very first helicopter transport in the ’70s. “A man was in an automobile accident and came in with a fence post through his chest -- he was awake when he came in to the ED! We stabilized him, and when we put him in the helicopter, we had to saw off part of the board to get it to fit. I never saw anything like it, before or since.”

Dr. Servideo says that the patients who come into the modern ED present different problems than patients 20 or 30 years ago. “On the one hand, we are seeing patients who are using the ED for primary care because they don’t have health insurance. On the other hand, we are seeing more chronic conditions, more people presenting multiple medical issues. They can’t afford to go to the doctor, so by the time they do come in, they are much sicker.”

He added, “We have also gotten better at keeping people alive longer, so when they come in, they may be older and have more complex health problems.”

For the younger set, the greater availability of athletic programs for children has led to an increase in sports-related injuries, he said. “We have 7-year-old kids playing football and in soccer leagues. That is a relatively new phenomenon.” Dr. Servideo added that because more parents are getting their children immunized for serious diseases, the ED is seeing fewer very sick children.

The tools of medicine have changed as well. Dr. Servideo said that the almost instantaneous availability of lab and imaging results allows his staff to start treating patients sooner after they arrive. When seconds count, that makes a difference. “MRI scans, CT scans, X-rays – all can be viewed on our screens almost as soon as they are taken.” Fauquier Hospital has ED-dedicated CT scan equipment and portable X-ray machines that can be wheeled to the bedside and produce scans in seconds.

And, as he was when that one memorable patient came through the door 40 years ago, Dr. Servideo is grateful for the ability to transport patients by helicopter. “The ability to quickly transfer critically ill patients is crucial.” The first time a helicopter carried a Fauquier Hospital patient, it landed on the road, at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Route 211; the hospital now has its own heliport.

Still, with all the new technology available, Dr. Servideo gives most of the credit to the doctors, nurses and physicians he works with every day. “We have been very fortunate to attract great physicians and mid-level practitioners. It’s a very high-quality medical staff and as a result we have very low turnover.” He adds, “And of course, you can have all the smart doctors you want, but without the nursing staff, you can’t function. We have wonderful nurses and the teamwork here is incredible.”

Dr. Servideo mentions Ina Bowman, director of the ED and Deb Larsen, clinical coordinator as two who have made a huge difference in the level of patient care. And he speaks fondly of Peggy Haldeman, his administrative assistant, as someone who is “behind the scenes, watching my back, supporting me in every way imaginable.”

What’s next for Dr. Servideo? “I’ll continue to work in the ED part time. I still enjoy it, but I am glad to leave some of the responsibilities behind.” He’ll be taking on new responsibilities, though, as a spiritual counselor for Grace Bible Church in Marshall. “I have been doing counseling off and on since I’ve been in medicine. It’s something that comes naturally to me, and I enjoy helping on an emotional and spiritual level. I’m glad to be able to concentrate more on that now.”

Dr. Servideo hands the reins for the ED to Dr. Michael Jenks, who has been with Fauquier Hospital since 2010. Dr. Servideo said, “Dr. Jenks is recently trained, and has excellent ideas about ways to further improve care and how to make the best use of our technology. He is knowledgeable about the latest changes in emergency medicine and has good relationships with our nurses and medical staff. After building something for 12 years, you want to be sure you are comfortable with the person taking over. I am comfortable with him.”

One last question: Is it hard to let go? Dr. Servideo smiles and admits reluctantly, “A little bit.”

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