It Takes a Medical Practice Team to Help Physicians Find Balance

July 17, 2012

When a staff member departs, it's a reminder of how valuable teamwork is and how, as a physician, I must give them tools to make us all a successful practice.

My wonderful and fabulous and somewhat sassy medical assistant left me. She assured me it wasn’t anything personal, that a new position allowed her the flexibility to continue her college coursework towards an RN. I sincerely wished her the best, knowing since we started working together that eventually she’d leave as she has both talent and drive and wanted to further her education.

After she left, I got back to work, relying on a series of substitute medical assistants. I assumed the position would fill quickly as surely the word on the street must report that I am a fabulous physician to work with. A few weeks later, there were some interested candidates and after being pre-screened by our office manager, I sat down with the first applicant. She was experienced and needed to make a move to be closer to home. I liked her, found her intelligent and dedicated. Plus, she actually interviewed me right back, asking me thoughtful questions. Eventually, after a number of details were worked out, she accepted the job and will start next month.

In the interim, I continue with my substitute medical assistants. It is a challenge - some days more than others, of course. Today, for example, my substitute MA needed a substitute after being in a minor car accident. It was a slow and painful day as I reminded my team about things I thought were self-evident. At the minimum, our lack of coordination cost me an hour. I am sure that the stuttered flow of the day was evident to our patients, unfortunately.

It is so easy for me to complain about whichever MA is assigned to work with me on a particular day. If only she would… But, I realize that a lot of what I think makes perfect sense and is completely obvious is, in a word, not. Actually, when I am paying attention and I take a little extra time, I can assure that the day runs more smoothly for everyone. I’ve found that with a few simple directions and explanations about how I’d like things to go, whichever MA I’m working with is able to step up to the plate and accomplish the task.

I have one particular patient that is just desperately in need of someone to talk to, a role my previous MA filled more or less enthusiastically. When she came in for an appointment today, she was devastated to learn that my MA left. She seemed deflated, somehow unable to muster her usual energetic chatter. Many of my other patients tell me how much they miss her, which doesn’t surprise me at all, but makes me remember why I enjoyed working with her.

This whole experience serves to remind me of the integral role my entire team plays in making sure hours and hours are not sucked up by a lack of communication, coordination, and cooperation. It also reminds me that I have an integral role to play in giving my team the tools to help them, and ultimately me, be successful. And, I can’t wait until my new MA arrives!

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