For about 20 years, Patricia Short was in the nursing field, providing hospice care. As anybody who's had any involvement with hospice knows, these nurses often have a calling to provide end-of-life care and build a career in it, let alone one spanning two decades. So it wasn't surprising Patricia was intrigued when she learned about non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).
Patricia spoke with the owner of an NEMT provider and learned it was more complicated than she had expected and had an added bonus. "When she told me about transportation, I was like, okay, she's just going to be picking up people,” Patricia said. “It's going to be more like a cab. But then, when we sat at the kitchen table and she told me that she was transporting people to their medical appointments, I said, 'wow."' Patricia didn't know NEMT existed, but she was interested in this way of helping people. "It was a need," Patricia said. Her daughter said, "Mom, you should do that."
So she did and BEP Smart Choice Transportation was born. Now "I'm transporting them to appointments, like chemo and dialysis, and it's been rewarding, just a whole other level. It's different than I ever experienced."
Especially that experience
Patricia's commitment to her clients paid off for one in a bigger way than she might've expected. "This member had an infection and the doctor said to go to the ER," she recalls. "She went that day, but he wanted her to come right back the next day. She called me back and said 'Patricia, I couldn't get transportation.' So I said, 'I'm going to get you down there no matter what.'" That proved critical. Because, as it turned out, they needed to start antibiotics right away, and the member later texted Patricia. She wrote: "I'm so glad because of you. If I would have waited longer, I might not be here."
And then there's that other patient
Patricia wakes at three in the morning a few days a week to transport a woman who needs dialysis. "I pick her up and take her to Joliet (Illinois). It's about 27 miles." For Patricia and her team, trips like this are just part of the job.
But is it just a job? Patricia doesn't see it that way.
"It's not just a job," she said. "You've got to be a 'people person' and not something fake, because it's not going to last."
She and her team make approximately 175 trips a week, and it's been especially trying during the pandemic. Her son keeps the vehicles sterilized; and her husband does some of the computer work. "I'm just working hard and trying to do a great job," she said. "I want to make sure that I can get them to their appointment on time and safely."