The Aufses Archives staff has installed our latest exhibit, Connection Workers, in the lobby of the Annenberg Building.
Before receiving care, patients and visitors interact with a multitude of hospital workers who provide functional support and assistance in directing people from point A to point B. This exhibit showcases those workers know the answers and have the training to assist with making the connection between where our patients and visitors are, and where they need to be.
This season’s exhibit highlights workers from our hospitals’ histories who made vital connections by greeting visitors, scheduling appointments, transporting patients, connecting telephone calls, registering clinic appointments, and, as we transitioned into the digital age, ensuring that information was accessible digitally.
Some roles, such as transport and security, remained the same over the years. Other job responsibilities changed with the advent of new technologies, revolutionizing the way we communicate. Telephone operators, medical records administrators, and early IT workers have adapted by implementing and maintaining systems to keep us connected. Navigating the hospital environment has never been simple, but thankfully there have always been dedicated employees in positions that ease the way.
This blog post focuses only on the Mount Sinai Hospital histories presented in the exhibit.
Telephone Operators & Switchboard
“Handling external patient information is a major responsibility of Central Information. Attending the wall board are Helen Mella, Gwendolyn Henderson, Amelda Hill, and Raymond Odom, Central Information Supervisor.”
Telephone Operators Jacqualyn Mulrain, Delores Jenkins, and Barbara Villanueva (on phone), October 1989
“In the new Communications Center in Annenberg, Chief Telephone Operator, Iris Reid checks out a Centrex problem with DeLois Harrell, seated at her desk with its push-button console, one of eight such console desks that replace the switchboard in our new direct-dial system. At their left are the page operators.”
Reception & Information
Metzger Pavilion’s Reception and Information area in 1928. Opened in 1904, Metzger formerly served as Mount Sinai Hospital’s administration building, had laboratories installed on the roof in 1948, and was torn down in 1986 to make way for the Guggenheim Pavilion.
Mount Sinai Hospital Bulletin, 1931
Roy Brown working at the Information desk during the November 9, 1965 blackout.
Information Technology (IT)
Mount Sinai People, April 1986
Mount Sinai People, Winter 1991
Year 2000 CHECKLIST newsletter, December 1999
Pictured here are the EPIC “Willow” project team in 2010 during the “first phase in the implementation of… a new electronic medical record system linking all inpatient and ambulatory patient care areas.” The transition to EPIC has taken many years, going through multiple rollouts that required collaboration across departments and the constant support of the EPIC Clinical Transformation Group in IT (now Digital and Technology Partners).
Transporters & Orderlies
Mount Sinai People, December 1982
Mount Sinai Hospital Bulletin, 1932
Carrie Feaster, Diane Guzman, Julia Medina, Carmen Ruiz, Cara Thompson, Socorra Muriel, and other unidentified Transporters modeling new uniforms, 1975
Mount Sinai People, February 1983
Mount Sinai People, April 1985
Mount Sinai People, April 1986
On October 26, 2001 the Security team was honored at a breakfast for their service by the Emergency Department. Pictured (right to left) are: Security Officers Jose Santos, Richard Cruz, Charles Edmunds; Nurse Manager Laura Giles, RN; Security Officer Felix Reyes; and Chairman of the Emergency Medicine Department Sheldon Jacobson, MD.
“I like to keep things low key, to stay in the background. I enjoy life, but in a gentle way. That’s just the way I am.”
– Mitch McDaniel, Project Administrator in Medical Records, joined Mount Sinai in 1971, profiled in Mount Sinai People, 1990
The second site of the Hospital on Lexington Avenue
This is an excerpt from the minutes of the Board of Directors of The Mount Sinai Hospital, March 11, 1888. It is a report from Mr. De Witt J. Seligman, a Director, concerning the proper verification of deaths occurring in the Hospital. The punctuation has not been changed. It provides an interesting view into what was then – and now – a very important issue: how to determine when someone is, in fact, dead.
“Mr. Seligman who was appointed a committee of one…read the following report:
To the Board of Directors of Mount Sinai Hospital:
Having been appointed at the last regular meeting of your Board a Committee of one to look into the matter of certifying to deaths I beg to submit the following report.
In getting at the facts of this matter I have seen three doctors of our visiting staff, the Pathologist of the New York Hospital, the House Surgeon and the House Physician of Mount Sinai Hospital and the Superintendent of Mount Sinai Hospital. There can be no doubt that it happens at times that patients are declared dead before life has become extinct. The Superintendent of our Hospital informs me that on one occasion a nurse told him that her patient was dead and that she was going to announce it to the doctor. The superintendent, Mr. Hadel, went to the Ward and found the alleged dead man sitting bolt upright.
A man informed our Superintendent, Mr. Hadel, that when he was a patient at Blackwell’s Island he was being carried from the Ward to the dead house. On the way they passed through the open air and the effect was that the man on the stretcher became revived and lived to tell this tale of carelessness to our Superintendent. Only this winter a relative by marriage of my wife was, I am informed, declared dead by a physician, but today that same man is as lively as a cricket. Had he been a patient of the Mount Sinai Hospital might he not under our present rules, have ·been hurried from his warm bed in the Ward into the death house and there frozen to death in a short time?
The Pathologist of the New York Hospital informs me that the Ambulance surgeon of the New York Hospital has been repeatedly in doubt as to whether a patient was dead or not and the same Pathologist of the New York Hospital tells me that a certain Dr. Ridlow thought a patient was dead and but two hours later the patient showed life; on the following day Dr. Ridlow again thought that the same patient was dead but even after that on the second day the patient showed life. There was in this case trouble with the heart. An intelligent gentleman connected with the Mount Sinai Hospital as a Director informs me that he and his wife have a mutual agreement by which in the case of the supposed death of one of them, the survivor is to carry out the following agreement: the word of the family physician is not to be taken that death has come but an outside physician is to be summoned to apply the death tests. After that is done no ice is to be placed on the body for 8 hours and the burial is not to take place for three days. In a large institution like ours where deaths are naturally occurring continually, the question arises, what method shall we adopt to avoid the possible mistake of hurrying a supposed corpse into the dead house where in case some life is still in the body it would soon by the sudden change of temperature be frozen out of the body.
One of our visiting physicians whom I saw suggested that the supposed corpse be placed in a warm room for 6 hours and that after 6 hours a second examination be made and then if no sign of life be found place the corps in the dead house. If decomposition has already set in this 6 hours additional precaution, the said visiting physician thought, ought not be taken, nor ought it be taken in warm weather when the cool temperature of the dead house would even aid to revive the flickering flame of life.
This idea seems to me the best idea that was suggested provided it be conscientiously carried out at the Hospital. But whatever rule you may make, one thing is sure and that is that no one but the House Physician on his side and no one but the House Surgeon on his side ought to make the death tests and in each and every case the House Physician or the House Surgeon ought to feel and bear the whole responsibility. To this end I would recommend that we have printed slips which shall run about as follows:
Mount Sinai Hospital, N. Y.
This is to certify that I have this day carefully examined __________________________
a patient of Mount Sinai Hospital in Ward No.____ Bed No.____ and found (him or her) dead.
These slips are to be signed only by the House Surgeon on his side of the Hospital and all these slips are to be kept by the Superintendent of Mount Sinai Hospital in a book for that purpose. In consultations with Drs. Rich and Walsh, the House Surgeon and House Physician of this Hospital, I find that there are no rules as to who shall declare that life has left a patient. Dr. Rich informed me that he always attended to this but Dr. Walsh informed me that in nearly all cases he did and in the remaining cases he left the investigation of the alleged corpse to any doctor, it mattered not which one.
The Pathologist of the New York Hospital informs me that at the New York Hospital the House Physician or the House Surgeon and nobody else testifies to death and even if he has been but a short time previous to death say three times at the bedside said House Physician or House Surgeon is personally compelled to go to the Ward and examine the patient after he has been declared dead. Even at night at the New York Hospital the House Physician or the House Surgeon is compelled to go to the body and examine it.
It may be of interest to you to know that at the New York Hospital every single corpse is washed and put in a shroud and as this operation usually takes half an hour or more, in the opinion of the Pathologist of the New York Hospital who gave me this information, is an additional safeguard against treating the patient as dead before life has left the body.
A great deal more could be written on this important subject, but I think I have written enough to make it clear that this Hospital should have the most stringent rules that can possibly be made in the matter of death certification.
(signed) DeWitt J. Seligman
Mr. [Isaac] Wallach moved that the report of Mr. Seligman dated March 11, 1888 be spread on the minutes in full and that the recommendations contained in said report that the House Physician and House Surgeon must examine persons supposed to have died and sign certificates of death and no one else, in the manner suggested in said report.
That a book be provided for the purpose by the Comm. on Printing.
That the suggestion to place alleged dead persons for 6 hours in a warm room from and during cold months before such bodies are placed in the dead house be referred to the Executive Committee to provide the room if possible.
These provisions are intended as safeguards to prevent the slightest possibility of patients being placed in Dead House who may be apparently dead but not actually so. This whole motion of Mr. Wallach was adopted.