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Olivia Enright, a surgical physician assistant, feels right at home in the operating room.

The Many Faces of Health Care

As healthcare delivery evolves, patients are seeing more allied health professionals – physician assistants, nurse practitioners, radiologic technologists, physical therapists and many others – at the hospital, Emergency Department and physicians' offices. Meet some of Greenwich Hospital's finest.

Olivia Enright, PA, developed a passion for medicine as a child watching her father work as an orthopedic surgeon. These days, Enright is the expert family member in the operating room, telling her now-retired dad about the latest surgical cases at Greenwich Hospital. “My heart has always been in surgery,” said Enright, who is the hospital’s lead surgical physician assistant, working side-by-side with surgeons and nurses in the operating room. Enright is among the hundreds of skilled allied health professionals who work in collaboration with physicians and nurses to provide high-quality, safe care at Greenwich Hospital. Like Enright, many allied health professionals considered other careers before embracing their current professions. Enright was thinking about nursing school until she encountered physician assistants while working as a medical assistant at her father’s private practice. She noticed the physician assistants were diagnosing, treating and writing prescriptions for patients.

“These were all the things I wanted to do, but wouldn’t be able to do as a nurse,” said Enright, who ultimately turned down nursing school to pursue a career as a physician assistant. Today Enright specializes in robotic-assisted surgery, including the DaVinci robotic surgical system.

“Robotics is a great tool that is being implemented in so many more types of minimally invasive surgeries, from colorectal cancer and spinal cases to gall bladder and hernia repairs,” she said.

For Enright, every day is rewarding, whether she’s holding a patient’s hand before surgery, training a colleague or mastering a complicated surgical case with a physician.

“One of the best things about my job is seeing patients doing well when they leave the hospital,” she said. “I love knowing that I was instrumental in their care.”

A hands-on approach to physical therapy

When patients first visit Ray Scherer, DPT, at Greenwich Hospital, they are typically experiencing pain and discomfort for any number of reasons – knee replacement surgery, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome or some other physical malady. Scherer has a doctorate degree in physical therapy (DPT).

Before Scherer begins to address the problem, he gets to know the individual. “I want my patients to feel safe, knowing they’re in a good environment,” said Scherer, who extended his post-graduate medical education to earn an advanced degree in physical therapy and certification to treat Parkinson’s disease. He reviews their entire health history, including medications and any chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart issues. “I want to treat the entire body as a whole.”

From there, Scherer zeroes in on what’s causing the specific pain, though his treatment plan goes beyond just that body part. “If it’s a knee problem, I’ll also work on their foot, ankle and hip,” he said, “because mobility in those areas might be limited and need to be worked on to get the knee to function properly.” As the age-old children’s song goes, “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone…” and so on.

Scherer provides what’s known as hands-on PT. “In addition to traditional exercise-based methods, I place my hands on patients, whether it’s to improve mobility of a joint, muscle or other soft tissue,” he said. The outpatient sessions usually take place twice a week for four to six weeks. “My goal is to help each patient get back to their everyday life, moving again pain-free.”

Ray Scherer, a physical therapist, helps his patients regain mobility and return to everyday life, pain-free.

He can change someone's life overnight

Three nights a week, Richard DeCola doesn’t sleep a wink. He’s wide awake, monitoring patients in the Sleep Center at Greenwich Hospital, a unit that assists people of all ages who suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless legs, and especially sleep apnea, which causes a person to intermittently stop breathing during the night.

“Many of these patients are tired all day and can’t function normally because they can’t get a peaceful night’s sleep,” said DeCola, RCP, a respiratory therapist also trained as a sleep technologist. Heavy snoring is associated with sleep apnea, he added, which can keep bed partners up at night, too.

DeCola greets patients, who are usually referred by their primary care provider, when they arrive in the evening at the Sleep Center, comprised of four hotel-like bedrooms and observation rooms. “I ask about their sleep issues, how they feel during the day, and explain the test,” he said.

He connects patients to devices that monitor heart rhythm, brain waves, muscle activity, eye movement, oxygen levels and breathing. A closed-circuit camera allows DeCola to observe patients throughout the night. He wakes them at 6 am and asks them to complete a questionnaire that’s relayed to the referring provider, along with data collected from the devices.

One session often leads to solving the patient’s problem, such as prescribing a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device, which applies air through a small mask worn over the nose, holding the airway open so that breathing is not interrupted.

“I enjoy the one-on-one interaction with the patients,” DeCola said. “There’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that I can help change someone’s life overnight.”

Richard DeCola, a respiratory therapist, monitors patients at the Sleep Center.

Caring for children and families beyond their medical needs

Lisa Henderson, APRN, loved being a pediatric nurse. But she longed to do more for her patients and their parents.

“I wanted more autonomy to care for the whole patient and family beyond the medical aspects. I wanted to tend to their emotional and social needs, as well,” said Henderson.

Today, Henderson is a nurse practitioner overseeing the Pediatric Outpatient Center at Greenwich Hospital, which cares for children from infancy through adolescence who have little or no health insurance. The center handles about 4,500 visits from healthy and sick children each year.

“Becoming a nurse practitioner was the perfect way to combine my nursing skills with my interest in medicine,” said Henderson, who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medications as a nurse practitioner. She also serves as a resource to other hospital staff.

There’s no such thing as a typical day at the center, where Henderson works in collaboration with physicians and nurses to provide check-ups, health screenings, vaccinations and more. Children who need specialized care are referred to the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital Pediatric Specialty Center.

No matter how busy the center gets, Henderson always finds time to talk with children and parents about their health, medications, nutrition, mental health status and more.

“Spending that little extra time with a child and family makes a world of difference,” said Henderson, who considers patient education one of the more essential aspects of her job. “It’s very rewarding,” she said, “to help children and families who might otherwise be forgotten.”

Lisa Henderson, a pediatric nurse practitioner, focuses on physical and mental health.

He gets under your skin... in a good way

When you’re not the picture of health, you may need a picture of what’s ailing you. That’s the general purpose of an X-ray, a common imaging procedure offered at Greenwich Hospital. The allied health professional who takes X-rays is a radiologic technologist, a career Joseph Cotroneo began, inadvertently, 15 years ago.

“I was working as a manager in a pharmacy when a friend told me about an opening at the hospital’s X-ray filing room,” he said, recalling a time before such archiving was computerized. Not long after taking the position, as fate would have it, the hospital began digitizing the system, which meant Cotroneo was expendable.

“The head of the Radiology Department suggested I become an X-ray technologist,” he said. So, after two years of intensive education and training, he joined the department that also performs CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, and other imaging exams.

Cotroneo rotates weekly between four areas of the hospital where X-rays are needed – outpatient fluoroscopy, operating rooms, the Emergency Department, and the pain management center. “After I take an X-ray, it is analyzed by a radiologist,” he explained, referring to a specially trained doctor who uses the X-ray to diagnose a variety of conditions, including bone injuries, infections, arthritis and cancer.

Because X-rays are so widely utilized, Cotroneo interacts with PAs, respiratory therapists, and other allied health professionals, as well as nurses and physicians. “The most rewarding part of my job is helping people get better and improve their lives,” he said.

Joseph Cotroneo, a radiologic technologist, performs diagnostic imaging tests.

Playing a vital role in the Emergency Department

After earning her undergraduate degree in biology, Danielle Neuberth spent the summer working in an education program. “But I always had the itch to get into the medical field,” she said.

So Neuberth took a job as a clinical research coordinator for a few years, then worked as an endoscopy technician, where she interacted with physician assistants, or PAs as they’re known.

“I fell in love with that profession,” she said, noting the rapport the PAs had with patients and the hands-on role they played.

That experience convinced Neuberth to enroll in a two-year PA program. Ultimately, she focused on emergency medicine, and Neuberth is now a PA in the Emergency Department (ED) at Greenwich Hospital.

“The ED appealed to me because you get to see a little of everything,” she said, “rather than concentrating on one medical specialty.”

Indeed, as a PA, Neuberth works alongside physicians and nurses, directly providing patients with diagnoses and treatments, including repairing lacerations, caring for orthopedic injuries and prescribing medications.

“While the doctors are busy caring for the most serious emergencies, the PAs can tend to other patients who still need immediate attention.”

Neuberth collaborates with other allied health professionals in the ED, including orthopedists, diagnostic radiologists, physical therapists and nurse practitioners.

“What’s nice about being a PA,” Neuberth added, “is that we can work autonomously, having physician guidance available when needed, which allows us to spend more time with patients. It’s the best of both worlds.”

As a physician assistant in the Emergency Department, Danielle Neuberth has a direct link to patient care.