Back Before Dirt

At the beginning of my career (in the mid-80’s) one of my first jobs in health care administration was as a Business Manager in a medical group of 5 Women Pediatricians with 30 female staff members. Oy vey! A few males in the mix would have been nice.

Some years later, history repeated itself. That time, I signed on as an Administrator for a group of 5 female OB-GYNs and 30+ all-female staff members. Whew! There was so much estrogen floating in the air in that place that it clogged the air vents. (But that’s an entirely different subject and an entirely different post.) LOL

In the pediatric group, we hired a 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. No only was she very vibrant for her age, we would soon find out that she was also quite a hoot.

Mary Mary

She had such confidence. As she should …  she’d been around … she knew her stuff.

Everyone who was anyone in the Pediatric and Labor & Delivery communities knew Mary. She’d done it all. She worked on the post-partum floor for years. She worked in surgery. She was in charge of labor & delivery and the neonatal units.

She was the beloved wise-cracking (secular) Mother Superior at a large downtown hospital. During her tenure, she personally oriented the majority of still-wet-behind-the ears Pediatricians, OB/GYNs, and Neonatologists to cycle through the hospital’s residency program during her reign.

When she turned sixty, she decided to switch from the hospital to the medical office environment. She’d paid her dues. She was tired of working evenings, weekends, and holidays. Tired of taking and overseeing call coverage.

Peas In A Pod

From the second we met, Mary and I hit it off. It only took a few seconds to discover that she had a twisted sense of humor. I loved that.

Whenever I am reminded of Mary, my mind goes back to the day that she almost caused me lose it during a Board Meeting.

She 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 many years later become known as the annoying ‘Oh-Chandler-Bing’ nasal whine, she told the doctors: “Oh my … this is severe …” She then went on to add:

“I hate to tell you, but you’re going to start losing staff if you don’t get back to giving pay increases. This makes two years in a row that these kids haven’t gotten even a cost of living adjustment. I’m a supervisor (so obviously you pay me more) but even I’ve been forced to start putting round steaks on layaway at Krogers. Think about it. Do you really want THAT getting out into the medical community? Do you want other doctors stealing YOUR staff … the one’s YOU’VE taken so much time to train?

Hand Me A BandAid Please

I tried not to gasp or show any visible signs of my shock. Inwardly however, I was rather amused that she’d been so bold like that. I bit my lip and (with my head down) started slowly drawing doodles on my copy of the agenda.

I couldn’t believe she said that!

I thought it was priceless and hilarious, but I still couldn’t believe that she came out and said that to them. But what did I know back then? I was still in my early 20’s, and I had yet to develop my own ‘appropriate gravitas’ for which I’d later become known.

The resolution? Well, after a moment of thoughtful reconsideration, the partners voted unanimously to give the staff the much needed cost of living increases. They even signed off on merit raises for a few select individuals as well.

Duly Noted

Interesting, I said to myself. I tucked that little gem away in my mental archives, labeling it ‘The Round Steak On Layaway’ rebuttal.

Mary and I lost track of each other when I left the practice and my husband and I moved to Seattle with his job. In the years that followed, I continued working in medical practice management—for two more decades.

The situation never presented itself where I needed to whip Mary’s rebuttal out and use it. But it certainly was nice to know that I had that zinger tucked away, queued up and ready–-just in case.