If you haven’t used one recently, you probably soon will. They’re information support specialists, better known as IS (formerly known as IT).
They’re the people you’re happy to see coming when you’re computer is on the fritz. Without them UTMB would probably come to a screeching halt, but computers aren’t their only responsibility.
“We touch everything in the hospital — even the cafeteria cash registers,” said Felicia Thomas, senior IS desktop support specialist for UTMB’s Angleton Danbury Campus. From phones to video-conferencing, TVs to network wiring — they handle it all.
“Most people don’t realize the magnitude of what we do,” said Thomas. And that’s the reason for my visit with the 20-plus-year IS veteran — to get a real-world view of the duties of an IS specialist.
Thomas begins her day at 8 a.m., like many of us, by checking her emails. However, for Thomas, this is where she gathers her “to-do list” for the day. In her email inbox are her “tickets,” which are service requests from employees who called into the IS help desk for issues that couldn’t be resolved over the phone.
“On any given day I could have up to 20 tickets,” said Thomas. On this day she has 12.
After reviewing all of her tickets and arranging them by priority, it’s 9 a.m. and she’s off to her first service call. “We respond to high-priority areas, like the operating room or Emergency Department, first,” she said. This explains why you may have a delay in a response to your IS service order.
Her first service call is an order to set up two new residents on the UTMB computer system.
She explains that, depending on the employee’s role, an IS support specialist may have to do an orientation before a new employee can access the computer system. “I give them their UTMB credentials, show them how to access the various systems and educate them on abiding by HIPAA guidelines on the system,” she said.
By 10 a.m. she helps a patient care technician who can’t log in to the system. She quickly discovers the tech is using the wrong log-in. ADC employees are still using their ADC log-in for some applications and their UTMB log-ins for others — a task that can sometimes cause confusion.
Thomas transferred to ADC from the UTMB Galveston campus six months ago and admits the transition to UTMB has posed some technical challenges for ADC. However, I can tell her positive attitude and jovial personality has taken a lot the stress out of the technical changes for the ADC team.
“She is all over the hospital helping our staff and is a great personality,” said Tonya Visor, marketing and communications specialist at ADC.
“What I love about ADC is that we’re all family here,” said Thomas. And I can tell as everyone certainly seems to know her and one another.
From 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., she repairs two mobile computers, which IS refers to as COWs (computers on wheels). I quickly learn that IS has its own language.
There’s PICNIC — person in chair, not in computer. “That’s what we say when the problem is with the person in the chair, not the computer,” she said with a laugh. “Users” are employees with a service issue and “tasks” are service issues. Tickets are grouped by area, so one ticket could have multiple tasks on it.
Her tasks are so heavy for the day that she works through lunch, something that she tells me often happens in IS.
From 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. she works with the medical records department on two tickets. She’s greeted warmly by members of the department who know her on a first-name basis. “I’m here to install software on two computers and move another one,” said Thomas.
She works with the staff quickly and with joy. Her humor and ever-present smile seem to help ease the user’s inconvenience of being temporarily without a computer.
Next she moves on to ultrasound to help a technician whose phone is down. She quickly resolves the situation. She admits a lot of the problems are minor and can be easily resolved.
“But you never know until you get started — some tasks can take five minutes and some can take up to five hours,” she said.
By 3 p.m. she takes a brief break to give me some colorful insight into her world.
“There are three types of users: (1) ones who don’t know [anything], (2) those who know a little and (3) the ones who are dangerous,” she said with a laugh. According to Thomas, the dangerous users are those employees who know too much and often cause the biggest service issues in their attempt to solve the problem themselves. Don’t be that person; please just call IS.
Thomas will spend the remainder of her day completing her tickets. She will also follow up on previously serviced tickets to make sure the users aren’t having any more problems. It’s not something she’s required to do, but an extra step she takes to provide excellent service for her users.
Prior to joining UTMB four years ago, Thomas spent 18 years with the City of Houston. “I was looking for a change and UTMB was the right move,” she said. “UTMB has some brilliant minds in the world of IS — our technology is right up there with the best in health care.”
In an often male-dominated field, Thomas is proud to be one of the few female specialists at UTMB.
“I love this field, because I love the human interaction,” Thomas said. It’s not what you expect to hear from an IS specialist, but it’s what makes Thomas so special at what she does — no pun intended. Her joy doesn’t come from working with the computer, but from working with the people.
She’s truly working together to work wonders. She’s the IS specialist you would be glad to see coming, because she’s going to leave you in a better technical and mental state with her infectious attitude. I spent the day laughing with her and was happy I came.
Keep up the good work, Thomas — keep them smiling. And that’s a day in the life of an IS support specialist.