Back Before Dirt
One of my first roles was as a Business Manager in an OB/GYN medical group in my early career. Not long after I started there, we recruited a new clinical manager named Mary.
She was a delightful mature nurse with a fun and colorful personality.
Tall and thin, she wore her beautiful shiny gray hair in a pixie bob. Not only was she vibrant for her age (she was nearing retirement), but we would soon discover that she was also quite a hoot.
She had such confidence. As she should, she knew her stuff.
Everyone who was anyone in the OB/GYN community knew Mary. She’d done it all. She’d worked on the hospital units for years. She’d also been in charge of several specialty critical care units.
She was the beloved wise-cracking secular Mother Superior at our large downtown Catholic hospital. She oriented countless wet-behind-the-ears medical residents during her tenure as they arrived to cycle through her neonatal department each year.
Looking for a much-needed change, she switched from the inpatient hospital setting to the outpatient medical office environment. She’d paid her dues. She’d grown tired of working evenings, weekends, and holidays. She was more than tired of taking and overseeing the unit’s call coverage.
Peas In A Pod
From the second we met, Mary and I hit it off. It took only a few seconds to discover that she and I shared a twisted sense of humor. I loved that; we were like sisters from different mothers.
Whenever I think of Mary, my mind flashes back to when she almost caused me to lose my composure during a Board Meeting.
Mary and I were lobbying the docs for pay increases for the staff. I’d done as much as I could from the financial side of the house, and the docs weren’t budging.
Breaking the silence, Mary spoke up, using what would years later be known as the annoying ‘Oh-Chandler-Bing’ nasal tone.
She proclaimed: “Oh my … this is so severe!” and went on to add: “I hate to tell you, but you will start losing your staff if you don’t get back to giving pay increases.
For two years in a row, these kids haven’t received even a cost of living increase. I’m a supervisor, so obviously, you pay me more - but even I have started putting round steaks on layaway at the Piggly Wiggly.
Think about it. Is THAT the kind of intel you want making its way out into the medical community? Do you want your peers stealing YOUR staff-the ones YOU’VE invested so much time and money into training?”
Shock And Awe
I tried not to gasp or show any visible signs of disbelief. Inwardly, I was amused. I bit my lip and began slowly drawing doodles on my copy of the meeting agenda with my head down.
The moment of silence that followed was priceless.
Mentally, I was high-fiving her. But what did I know back then? I was still in my early 20’s. I had yet to develop the ‘appropriate gravitas’ for which I’d later become known.
After thoughtful reconsideration, the physicians voted unanimously to give the staff their much-needed cost of living increases. They went so far as to sign off on merit increases for a few select individuals.
Looking around the room, I smiled and nodded, tucking that little gem away in my mental archives, labeling it ‘The Round Steak On Layaway’ justification/rebuttal.
Parting Of The Ways
Mary and I lost track of each other when I left the practice to move with my husband 3,000 miles away for his new job.
I continued to work in medical practice management for two more decades.
A situation never presented itself where I needed to whip out Mary’s rebuttal and use it. Still, it was reassuring that I had that zinger already tucked away-queued up and ready - just in case.
For years I moonlighted as a serious healthcare administrator. These days I am flying my humor flag and enjoying life. I write to dispel the rumor that I rode off quietly into the sunset. Smile and enjoy the ride. Life is good.