Dr. Greg Schumaker is the Director of the Tufts Medical Center (MC) Intensivist Program at Lowell General Hospital, and he is an attending physician in the Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Division at Tufts MC. Through this Wellforce partnership, he oversees Lowell General Hospital’s Intensive Care Units at the main and Saints campuses. He is also Director of the Clinical Resource Nurse Program and an Assistant Professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine.
What interests you about critical care?
My personal story is a little different because this is a second career for me. I was in the investment world for about 12 years and I went back to medical school to become a general practitioner. Family practice was initially my thinking. When I started doing clinical rotations in medical school, I realized I liked caring for very sick patients with complicated issues. Critical care has elements of both areas that I really enjoy.
Why do more patients require ICU care?
People coming to the hospital are much sicker than they were 15-20 years ago. With advances in treatments and technology, people are now surviving conditions like cancer or heart attack and may either develop other conditions as they get older or experience side effects from treatments for those conditions that require care in the ICU.
What does the Tufts Medical Center affiliation mean for patients who need care in Lowell General’s Intensive Care Unit?
By having Tufts MC specialists staffing the ICU seven days a week, we have succeeded in keeping more patients in Lowell, closer to their families, and that was our main goal.
Why was it important for Lowell General to add more intensive care beds?
It was mainly a capacity issue. At times we have had to send people into Boston hospitals purely because of a lack of available bed space. This will help keep more patients close to home.
When Lowell General Hospital leaders approached you about needs for a new ICU, what was important to you?
One thing that was personally important to me was to have a private place to meet with families. We are often needing to have difficult conversations about end of life issues, and I wanted to be able to talk to families and patients’ loved ones in a quiet, private space. We now have two family meeting rooms in the corners of the new unit. That, to me, is a huge benefit for the families of the patients we take care of here. Helping the families is an important part of what we do.
Why were windows so important for the new unit?
One of the things we worry about in the ICU is that you have people at extraordinarily high risk of delirium (confusion, hallucinations), and that’s a bad prognosis sign. They don’t see the outside world, so they have no clues to know when it’s night and day. This is better designed. We want to make sure they can see the outside, lower the noise level to get their sleep schedule on track, to lessen the risk of delirium.
How do physicians in Lowell help keep care local?
We can’t do it on our own. I think Lowell General is fortunate having a very engaged and sophisticated medical staff. When people ask me about the ICU at Lowell General and the patients and families we care for, I always say that our patients have many complex issues, and it is a great help to have such a collaborative relationship with our local physicians who we can consult with on these issues and our
patients’ unique needs.
Dr. Greg Schumaker completed his residency and a fellowship in Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. He received his medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine. His special interests include Pulmonary Medicine, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine.
This program is one more way that members of Wellforce are bringing the benefits of collaborations to our communities. To learn more, visit Wellforce.