LZ FAMILY PART 2

I employed MDs, RNs, NPs, LPNs, MOAs, PAs, Lab and X-ray techs and had the privilege of working with some pretty incredible people.  When interviewing for a clinical position, my number one goal was to hire true care givers.  While I could train anybody to do a strep test or a urinalysis, I could not train a person in the art of caring.  Either they were caring individuals when they walked through my door, or they weren’t.

I interviewed Kathy in my family room.  The office was still under construction, so I did all of my hiring at home.  I fell for Kathy on our first interview.  She was an X-ray tech who ended up being a manager, purchasing agent, nurse and lab tech.  She taught me the importance of recognizing an employee’s ability, not the letters after their names.  I thought I would have to close the office when Kathy left. Obviously, I learned to function without her.  That lesson would serve me well, as other remarkable care givers came and went over the 35 years I practiced in LZ.

When I opened the office, my physician mentor told me I should plan on keeping staff members for no more than 2 years.  From a strictly business point of view, having a transient staff decreased payroll and employee benefits thereby increasing the bottom line.  I’m happy I ignored his advice.  Many of my employees were with me over 20 years and, as stated previously, became family.  The other thing he told me turned out to be true.  There are two types of answering services:

  1. BAD
  2. WORST THAN BAD

That’s why I gave patients my cell number.  There was a major drawback to giving patients my cell number and it’s not what you think.  The problem was that patients wouldn’t use it.

Me – “Why didn’t you call me last night when the chest pain started?”

Patient – “I didn’t want to bother you or wake up your wife.  I figured it could wait until the office opened.”

I truly appreciated the concern the patient had for my family and me but would have rather been awakened at 3 am rather than going to the CCU at 7 am.

Like my frontend staff, my clinical staff often caught flak for long waiting times.  Unlike my frontend staff, they did get a fair amount of kudos for the care they gave once the patient was in the exam room.  Over the years, they literally saved 100s of lives.  I would be in another exam room when the staff knocked on the door (or curtains during the first 5 years) and advise me that the patient in another room needed to be seen immediately.  Sometimes, I got pissy thinking my staff member was over reacting.  Nine times out of 10 they were right, and the paramedics ended transporting the patient to the hospital.  Seven out of ten times the severe indigestion was a heart attack.

Of the many talented people I worked with, Mary Krock MD, Maki O, Barb M, Ewa, Olga and Barb W stand out.  Each developed close ties with our patients.  Each stepped up into leadership roles when necessary.  Each grew in their abilities to the point that, when they left, I wondered if I could go on.

Maki was a special case.  I actually did her high school physical and mentored her during her physician assistant training.  We had a blast working together.  She had a great sense of humor and a phenomenal work ethic.  When she told me she wanted to live in Alaska, I thought she was joking.  When I realized she wasn’t joking, I cried.  Now, thinking about Maki instantly puts a smile on my face.

Ewa was a medical office assistant whose work ethic was second to known.  When she took on a task, she perfected it.  From an inexperienced young MOA, she progressed over the years and eventually took over the management of my Concierge practice.  Many of my Concierge patients stayed in the program so they could work with Ewa.

The other staff member that deserves special mention is my wife.  Most patients thought Dawn was my wife.  I’m not sure why but suspect it was the way she said “no” to me or ignored me.  Renee the boss.  She ran the business side of the practice so that I could concentrate on patient care.  Like the other staff members, she had a host of letters after her name including MBA, Certified Coder, Masters of Speech, etc.  She was the keeper of the books; and, when there wasn’t enough income to pay the bills, she figured out how to keep the doors open.  When there wasn’t enough income to pay Christmas bonuses or give the staff raises, she took the hit!  I COULD ALWAYS DUCK THE ISSUE BY SAYING, “ASK RENEE”.  Yes, I was the good guy and she became the de facto bitch when necessary.   

One thing you should never do is count someone else’s money.  Most people assume docs are rich.  Family docs make an OK living working 80 hour weeks but rarely get rich.  Since Covid hit, primary care physicians are going broke. 

Nonetheless, the assumption that the boss is making a fortune at the staff’s expense is certainly false in the medical world.  There were times over the years when Renee paid the staff first and there was nothing left over for us. (Please pay your docs before anyone else and, for sure, don’t tell him/her about your fantastic vacation to Ireland when you owe the office $500.) 

The rest of the LZ family was made up of the patients.  As a young man, I had planned on settling on the outer banks of North Carolina.  I love water, fishing and boating.  I got trapped in LZ and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.  My patients were the best in the world.  Overtime, they became family members.

Here’s your music for the day and a joke.

A father buys a lie detector robot that slaps people when they lie. 
He decides to test it out at dinner one night. 
The father asks his son what he did that afternoon. 
The son says, “I did some homework.” 
The robot slaps the son. 
The son says, “Ok, Ok, I was at a friend’s house watching movies.” 
Dad asks, “What movie did you watch?” 
Son says, “Toy Story.” 
The robot slaps the son. 
Son says, “Ok, Ok, we were watching p*rn.” 
Dad says, “What? At your age I didn’t even know what p*rn was.” 
The robot slaps the father. 
Mom laughs and says, “Well, he certainly is your son.” 
The robot slaps the mother. 

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