Debbie Presley

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Office Manager, Hugo, OK

Millennium Home Care Office Manager Debbie Presley takes phone calls, schedules appointments and processes orders. She isn’t a nurse or a trained clinician so it is natural to assume her influence on patients is minimal, if not completely nonexistent. Yet, when you talk to Debbie about her day-to-day tasks, patient stories pepper the conversation upending the notion that office workers are absent in patient care.

Debbie speaks humbly about her impact on patient care, relegating herself as a “shuffler of requests.” But her testimonies of patient interactions betray this modest depiction. As the office manager, Debbie answers every phone call; most of these are patient calls. Patients call to schedule follow-up appointments, talk to a nurse or request records. Debbie speaks to nearly 70 patients a week and can recognize 35 of them just by their voice. She doesn’t just shuffle these patients to the right resource, she engages them. “Well, sometimes I’m the only person they have to talk to — whether it’s about how they feel or just about what they did yesterday, I’m there to listen,” she says. And she is never too busy. “When the phone rings, I stop whatever I’m doing to answer and listen to patients for as long as they need.”

Patients seem to know this about Debbie. She has regular callers; patients who just want to chat with her. Some call daily, some bi-weekly. One of her regular calls is with a patient whose wife recently passed away. He is resistant to the counseling recommended by his care team, but he will talk to Debbie daily. They pass the time with small talk and, at times, more weighty conversation about his wife and life without her. Debbie says she is just a sounding board, “I just help patients feel less lonely.”

Debbie diverts all praise and acknowledgement of her impact to her team members, especially providers who she says are the heart of the agency. “Debbie never takes credit for all the good work she does and does not like recognition, but she deserves it,” says Amanda Pruett, Debbie’s supervisor. Debbie’s reluctance to accept her meaningful role in patient care might very well explain why her role is so meaningful. She isn’t answering each patient call with life-saving intentions, she is answering with the humble benevolence of a listener. “I can’t fix anything for these patients, but I can listen to them. I know it’s not a big thing and it’s not going to change the world, but it makes me feel like I’m helping somebody,” she says. If Debbie’s regular callers are any indication, her work is profoundly affecting her community. If only incrementally, one patient call at a time, she is contributing to the health and well-being of an entire community.