Jeff McGahee, RT (R)(CT)(MR), Radiation Technologist
What did you want to be as a kid? And how did you ultimately choose your career?
As a kid growing up in the world before computers, cellphones and the internet, I dreamed of being a race car driver. I was always a thrill seeker, but as I grew older my care and concern for people became a stronger draw for me. I had wonderful grandparents whose example of unconditional love and concern for others paved the road as to how I would learn to treat others.
What is a typical workday like?
I work deep night weekends in the CT department, so most of my patients come from the Emergency Department. It is a fast-paced, high-stress work environment, but during those stressful times we all work together like the pit crew of a NASCAR race team. It may seem chaotic to others, but we all work together to achieve our common goal of caring for that patient.
What is the biggest challenge of your work?
My biggest challenge is more on the emotional side. Dealing with trauma cases is difficult for me because three years ago my 24-year-old son was a trauma patient. He lost control of his motorcycle and was thrown off his bike at a high rate of speed. The people in the emergency room that night did all they could to save him, but his injuries were too severe. Matthew had previously opted to become an organ donor, and his gift saved many lives. Last year, I got to meet one of the people he saved and hear his heart beat again through his recipient. So my biggest challenge of my work is not letting the tragedy of that day keep me from staying in the present so that I can continue to care for others.
What do you like most about your job?
I recently had a patient tell me a story of her experience with her hospital visit. She said, "I had to get an X-ray taken of my hand, because I had fallen and my hand took the brunt of the fall trying to catch myself. I wasn't sure it was broken, but it sure was painful. When my technologist called me from the waiting room, he mispronounced my name and did not introduce himself or even say hello. He took me into the room, positioned me for my X-rays and never said a word. He never smiled or even looked me in the eye. When he finished the exam, I thanked him and he never even acknowledged that I spoke. I left that department feeling very sad and unimportant that day."
That patient was my 74-year-old mother. She went on to tell me that if that technologist had just greeted her with a smile and shown an ounce of concern for her pain, it would have made all the difference in the world for her and she would have felt good about her experience. She said, "Jeff; you must remember that people need kindness. It's not enough to just do your job. You need to show others you really care, and a little thing like a smile is a crucial part of that care."
At first, I was appalled that someone would treat my mother in this manner. How dare they? But then it made me look at myself. Had I ever done this to someone's loved one? Had I ever just gone through the motions of doing my job?
Sadly, I knew the answer. My mother's story helped me remember why I became a health care worker in the first place. We will all become a patient one day, and we expect and hope that the people on duty will care for us and care about us, and not just go through the motions.
So what do I like most about my job? I like that I have the opportunity to be the person to my patients that my mother needed that day on her visit to the hospital. I get to make a difference to the people I serve.
What do you do when you are not at work?
I am an avid woodworker. I make rustic furniture, art pieces and other wood projects. Building something with my own two hands gives me a peace beyond words. There is a joy in creating something from nothing. After Matthew's death, not many things gave me any joy or peace, but creating beautiful wood projects somehow gives me joy.