Visiting a doctor can be an anxiety-inducing and overwhelming experience. However, at the New York Thyroid-Parathyroid Center, Rodelyn Zapanta (Administrative Director) and Krystal Pantoja (Patient Care Coordinator) aim to ease such anxiety with their patient-centered approach. They are the patient's first connection to the Center and a vital component of maintaining the Center's high standards of clinical care, efficiency, and accessibility.
With years of experience at the Center, both Rodelyn and Krystal have been thoroughly immersed in the environment, and as such are well versed at determining a patient's needs. When patients call the Center, Rodelyn and Krystal establish the patient as the top priority, ensure the patient's comfort, and cater to his or her specific needs. Through their emphasis on a patient-centered approach and the importance of an individualized experience, Rodelyn and Krystal uphold the Center's standard of excellence.
You both appear to be very familiar with the field of endocrinology and with the protocol required for endocrine surgery. How did you arrive at this knowledge?
Rodelyn: Before I became Administrative Coordinator for the Section of Endocrine Surgery, I was a medical assistant for an endocrine surgeon. During that time, I gained valuable knowledge about endocrine surgery. That experience certainly helps with my job today, especially because, here at the Thyroid-Parathyroid Center, we deal with a high volume of patient interaction. I feel that the knowledge I have allows me to establish a connection with the majority of patients I speak to.
Krystal: I learned everything I know about endocrine surgery at our Thyroid-Parathyroid Center. In fact, Rodelyn taught me everything I know. I think it is important that I possess knowledge about the patient's procedures. If the first person a patient speaks to is knowledgeable about the physicians and the procedures offered here, then they will be more likely to trust and respect us as a whole. I want to make the patients feel comfortable and be able to answer as many of their questions as possible.
In order for a patient to be eligible for an appointment with a surgeon at the Thyroid-Parathyroid Center, what needs to have taken place beforehand?
Our goal is to make good use of the patient's time. We don't want a patient to take time from their busy schedules to come here, only to find that they really need to see another type of doctor like a medical endocrinologist. For this reason, patients need to have met with an endocrinologist or with a primary care physician who has recommended surgery or a consultation with a surgeon because there are different needs for different conditions. Based on the patient's condition, he or she may require blood work, an ultrasound, radiology tests, or biopsy prior to a visit to the Thyroid-Parathyroid Center. We can perform our jobs more efficiently and the patient can proceed through their healing process more quickly if the patient has completed the appropriate steps before we schedule an appointment.
Do patients choose a surgeon during their conversation with you?
Yes, we try to place patients with a surgeon based on his or her needs, including insurance, time sensitivity as well as personal preference. Patients often ask us who is the best surgeon here. We make sure to tell them that each surgeon here is equally skilled but may differ on how they fit with the patient's individual needs. All of our surgeons were specifically asked to join the Thyroid-Parathyroid Center because of their extensive experience and expertise. We do our best to cater to a patient's personal needs and preferences when scheduling appointments.
What is the most pressing concern patients call with prior to surgery?
Many patients are concerned about the scar post surgery. Thyroid surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which we make very small incisions and thus the scar is typically no longer noticeable within a year of surgery. This is sometimes difficult for patients to believe or imagine, but our website has a scar gallery that may put some people at ease.
Is there anything patients don't usually ask about, but that you feel is important for them to know?
Many patients are unaware that we can schedule the consult and the surgery in the same week if they provide us with enough advance notice. This is particularly helpful for many of our patients that do not live in the New York area. We do ask that patients send us their records prior to their visit, and in turn, we mail out patient paperwork and our welcome newsletter before his or her appointment. Additionally, many patients are surprised to learn that he or she typically go home the same day as their surgery. We understand a patient's time is valuable, and we therefore aspire to make their trip here as efficient as possible.
There is a lot of information about thyroid disease on the Internet. How do you feel about patients using this as a source of reliable information?
Many of the websites about thyroid disease are inaccurate and misleading. We do not want patients to obtain false information about their conditions, so we try to direct them to valid sites, such as endocrinesurgery.org. There is a patient education section on this website that is accurate and provides useful patient information. In addition, we have created a comprehensive patient education site that you can visit here: columbiasurgery.org/endocrine.
What would you recommend patients do prior to their surgery at the Thyroid-Parathyroid Center?
It is vital for patients to establish a relationship with an endocrinologist before they come to see us. Many patients will need to meet with an endocrinologist after surgery, but scheduling an appointment can be difficult. We recommend that patients get touch with an endocrinologist in advance so that they can set up an appointment for an appropriate time after their surgery. Since a patient's needs are our top priority, we are happy to provide names and numbers of endocrinologists located near a patient's primary residence in order to suit his or her own preferences and ease the scheduling process.