It’s just past 5 p.m. on a Friday night and, as usual, the phone in Kyle Fowler’s NorthBay Medical Center office is getting a robust workout. “There are a million things in my head right now,” he says, before taking his 12th call in roughly 10 minutes. This one is from a fellow nurse at VacaValley Hospital. She informs him that Dr. Rehman has been tending to a patient suffering from spinal-cord compression and wants the patient transferred to the Intensive Care Unit in Fairfield. “I will make it happen,” Kyle replies in a Southern drawl that is as resonant as it is reassuring.
Making things happen is Kyle’s specialty. He’s an Administrative Coordinator, or AC—a supervisor assigned to communicate with doctors and nurses, and various departments, to make sure things are running smoothly throughout his 4-to-midnight shift. He’s one of 20-plus ACs for NorthBay Healthcare who manage the system’s two hospitals 24/7, 365 days a year.
This job is all about problem-solving. We may not always know what the solutions are right off the bat, but we have to wade our way through them.
In some ways, the job can be likened to a traffic cop in that he’s tasked with “keeping the flow going” while assigning beds and rooms to patients. In other ways, he’s a “dad or mom of the hospital”—someone who mediates conflicts, deals with safety concerns and provides advice and feedback, while pitching in anywhere he’s needed.
“This job is all about problem-solving,” says Kyle. “We may not always know what the solutions are right off the bat, but we have to wade our way through them. And this is often the busiest time of the day. All the managers and directors are going home and everyone’s leaning on you.”
And Kyle, easygoing and cordial, doesn’t mind being leaned on. A native of tiny Buckeye, La., he honed a solid work ethic as a travel nurse and a 20-year member of the U.S. Army Reserve. Before arriving in Fairfield two years ago, he performed AC-like duties at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe.
As a member of the NorthBay team, he strives to lead by example.
“I’m a firm believer that, if there’s work to be done, you do it—no matter who you are,” he says. “None of us are too good to get our hands dirty. People around here know that I’ll jump in if they need me.”
Indeed, Kyle has been known to embrace problems both big and small. To wit: Recently, he scrubbed in to help ICU doctors and nurses with a complicated situation involving an open-heart patient. Then there was the night he made a crucial decision to lock down the hospital when a verbal altercation in the parking lot escalated to an ominous level. In doing so, he cited the safety of the patients and his fellow employees.
On the other hand, he has also delivered after-hours meals to patients, made late-night runs to the supply warehouse, pushed beds and even unclogged commodes. And now, he’s taking a call from someone in the operating room who reports that the ice machine is on the fritz. “I’m on it. I’ll get some ice to you,” he promises.
When the phone calls temporarily subside, Kyle goes on the move, patrolling the hospital and putting plenty of mileage on his Dansko shoes. He starts his rounds in the ICU, proceeds to Labor and Delivery, and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before winding up in the Emergency Department. He touches base with everyone within earshot, greeting them with a warm smile. “Y’all need anything?” he asks. “Call us if you do.”
Kyle is a self-described “social animal” who loves to talk and spread cheer. His fellow staff members clearly appreciate that he’s on duty.
“He’s not a good AC, he’s a great AC,” says Cheryle Lacuata, an R.N. in NorthBay’s Surgical Unit 1600. “He’s open and easy to talk to. He keeps us informed. Plus, he treats everybody the way they want to be treated—how we all feel we should be treated. Having someone like him around makes even the worst day tolerable.”
Leslee Fowler (no relation to Kyle), an Emergency Department nurse, echoes that sentiment.
“I know that I can tell him something and feel absolute confidence that it will get done,” she says. “He’s very helpful in the ED, especially if things become chaotic.”
Desi Bray, a NorthBay security officer, cites Kyle’s Southern charm as a key factor in his ability to successfully interact with the staff.
“He’d make a good cop. He knows how to talk to people in a way that they’ll get the things done,” he says. “In the business, we call it verbal judo. It’s a skill in which you’re able to talk to someone in a tone and manner that gets the job done without having to be abrasive or belligerent.”
So far tonight, Kyle’s verbal judo skills haven’t been put to the test, and that’s a good thing. After making his rounds, he returns to his office, where he plants himself in front of two computer screens filled with colorful icons that inform him which beds are being currently used and for what purpose. It’s his command center—the system that allows him to stay in touch with the lead nurses and the hospital’s minute-by-minute activities.
“I feel that 99.9 percent of problems in the workplace are caused by miscommunication,” he says. “My focus is: Clear, concise communication.”
To that end, Kyle has spoken personally with Dr. Rehman to get all the details right and ensure there was a smooth transition of care for his patient. In addition, he has had numerous conversations with the ED in order to keep things humming.
Oh, and, of course, he has jumped back on the phone to let the OR know that its minor problem has been resolved. “Hey, it’s Kyle,” he says. “Your ice is on the way.”