People of KHSC: Frances Choong

News / General

It’s often said that the Emergency Department (ED) is the ‘front door to hospital care.’ In fact at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), hundreds of people come through the ED each day, totaling more than 57,000 visits in the last year alone. Whether they arrive by ambulance or walk-in, every single one of those patients encounters a Registration Clerk like Frances Choong.

“Each patient is first met by the triage nurse who assesses their health concern and categorizes them with a triage score to ensure the sickest individuals receive care first. Then I meet with each patient, take down their personal information, insurance information and enter it all into our digital patient care system so we can keep track of all of their healthcare information during their time in the hospital.”

Having spent 25 years doing the job, Frances is an absolute expert in this role. She started working at KHSC’s Kingston General Hospital site as a secretary in 1972 before transitioning into the ED in 1997 where she exclusively works the night shift.

“Having started working in ’72, I think most people would be retired by this point, but I guess I am wired a little different. I had never worked ‘shift work’ until I started in the ED and now I work exclusively 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. When you arrive at the hospital for work, you quickly forget it’s night because you know you have a busy shift ahead of you.

“I am the only registration person on the overnight shift, so I deal with walk-ins and patients that arrive by ambulance. If the patient comes in via ambulance, I go and see the patient on the stretcher. If their issue is more serious and they aren’t able to speak for themselves, I may need to work with their family or whomever is accompanying them.

“Another big part of the job is visiting the patient at the bedside if they are going to be admitted to an inpatient unit to make sure I have all the right information. Then I do all the paperwork and charts so they are ready to be transferred to the Medical Records department. It’s busy, I don’t have time to wonder what I’m going to do next because I’m always on the go, but it’s always interesting.”

Thankfully she says, she’s also someone who genuinely likes working with the public, because when you see people in the ED, they're often having a bad day.

“I see all sorts of different circumstances and some people are more patient than others, but I always do my job to the best of my ability. I see patient, after patient, after patient, and just work to ensure their information is correct for the medical team. But there is the humanity too. On a winter night you might notice someone is cold in the waiting room and they need a blanket. That’s not in the job description, but I can show empathy and go and get a blanket to help make them more comfortable. It’s not always just the pen, paper, and computer in this role. It’s the extra compassion that we can offer.

“I like to joke that the Emergency Department will never go out of business,” which has been especially true the last few years. The number of patients is certainly on the rise and we have longer wait-times. But we’re not the only hospital. That’s the whole way the medical system is working right now. It’s a whole combination of factors across the whole health care system.

“But our medical teams are great and we are all trying our hardest, we are all very dedicated. I genuinely like working in healthcare and dealing with the public. I like helping patients.”