Volunteering World-Class Care

Olympic Swimming Pool in Omaha
Posted 6/5/2012 by UNMC Physicians

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When the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials return to Omaha this summer, staff and physicians from UNMC Physicians, UNMC and The Nebraska Medical Center will be teaming up to volunteer their time to ensure the Olympic hopefuls are able to compete at their best.

Preparing for two events has been a task that Jamie Stahl, an administrative supervisor, has taken on willingly. Since the middle of January, Stahl has been recruiting volunteers, collecting medical supplies and working with a swim trials team to ensure that coverage will be provided for these events.

"This is such a great opportunity for Omaha, and especially the medical center, to be involved and showcase the talent that resides within our organization," Stahl said.

"It was certainly an honor to be invited again to provide services at the event,” said Dean Collier, an assistant professor at the UNMC College of Pharmacy. “This is an opportunity to learn about sports medicine at an elite level."

Team Preparing for the Swim Trials
Chad Vokoun, MD, internal medicine; Sean McGarry, MD, orthopaedics and Mary Peterson, RN, orthopaedics, prepare for the swim trials.

More than 160 individuals have volunteered their time from across the organization: physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists and staff along with massage therapists from outside the organization.

"Bringing together our team of primary care physicians from the areas of family medicine, general internal medicine and emergency medicine, some of whom specialize in sports medicine, along with our orthopaedics surgeons is an honor," Stahl said. "They have all been great to work with."

Approximately 30 UNMC Physicians employees have also been recruited to staff the medical office which will be open daily from 6 a.m. until the pools close at the end of the day. UNMC Physicians' clinics have donated all of the necessary medical supplies and Walgreens pharmacy will provide the necessary pharmaceuticals needed for these events.

The first event, the Swimvitational, will take place June 8-10. This is a test event to ensure the facility is prepared for the trials later in the month. Officials check to make sure the pools are ready and that all volunteer services are confirmed. The actual U.S. Olympic Swim Trials will take place June 22 - July 2.

Organizers anticipate more than 1,800 athletes at the trials. Physicians will be in the arena at a dedicated time each morning so the swimmers and coaches know someone will be there if any health concerns arise.

"That will be the time when we are prepared to see the most people possible," said Mark Dietrich, MD, orthopaedic surgeon.

A primary care and an orthopaedic surgeon will be onsite during the preliminaries and finals and on call for the time between races each day.

"It's always fun whenever everyone comes together and works together," Dietrich said. "We do a lot of that in our profession when we're taking care of patients, but it's kind of fun to do it at an outside event, especially one of this magnitude."

For some volunteers, this is the their second time working the event after helping at the 2008 swim trials in Omaha. Dietrich said there have been months of meetings and planning leading up to this year's event, but the experience of volunteering four years ago is invaluable.

"There were a lot of things we learned four years ago that we are able to implement or improve on this year without having to reinvent the wheel," he said. "We learned when we think the busiest times will be and when we will need more people. We also know which supplies we had and used last time and can put those together accordingly this time."

The volunteers at the last swim trials learned that the busiest times for the volunteers is first thing in the morning before the races begin and at the end of the day when the swimming ends. The physicians and staff see swimmers suffering from things such as upper respiratory infections, muscle strains, sprains and hip and shoulder ailments.

"A lot of the injuries we will see are the nagging ones, such as a shoulder that’s been bothering them for six months, because they didn’t stop their training regimen to get better," Jason Roberts, physical therapist at The Nebraska Medical Center, said. "When they come see us, our goal is to keep them moving so they can compete at their highest level."

Collier added, "You can imagine with very hectic schedules and frequent travel, they may not have the opportunity to keep up with routine healthcare."

Working on such high caliber athletes, ones who could be wearing Olympic gold medals around their necks later this summer, could leave the volunteers a little awestruck.

"There’s definitely a wow factor when you first walk into the arena and see the pool and the athletes," Roberts said. "But, once that first swimmer comes through your door and you start working with the athletes, they become another patient you're treating."

Dietrich added that they treat the medical station at the arena like it is an outpatient clinic, which makes it feel like a natural environment for the medical staff.

"Most of the volunteers are familiar with that type of environment," Dietrich said.

The time and effort put forth by the volunteers was just one aspect of what made the event a success four years ago. In 2008, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a hand in the success of the swim trials. Now, the event has returned four years later, and it is another chance for the volunteers from UNMC Physicians, The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC to play a role in its success.

"I think in some small way we helped make the 2008 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials a success for Omaha, as evidenced by its return this year," Collier said. "I don't know if as many world records will be broken this time, but I know we will be world-class hosts again."

After the 2008 swim trials, Dietrich wasn't sure if the event would return to Omaha, but he was optimistic.

"If it's really good again this year, maybe they'll just keep it at the same spot," he said with a smile. "It would be amazing if they came back for a third-straight time. If it did return though, we'd be ready to dive in and help."

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