Managing a Medical Practice Comes with Its Share of Surprises

April 15, 2013

From mysterious leaks to stink bugs and even clogged toilets, running a medical practice has its unexpected surprises almost daily.

Practicing medicine (and life in general) would be so much simpler if not for the unexpected disturbances that pop up. I’m not saying it would necessarily be easy, but you wouldn’t have as many tear-your-hair-out-of-your-head days.

There are certain "surprises" that aren’t surprises. Things that we know can happen from time to time: bad weather; staff getting sick and calling out; and patients who turn out to be more complex and time-consuming than we thought.

But there are also the truly unexpected. One day, I walked in and the keyboard of my tablet computer was wet. Nothing around it was wet, nothing under it was wet. And there was no evidence of a leak from the ceiling above, and it hadn’t been raining. And it wasn’t just a drop or two of water. It worked fine. That first day. The next day, it was wet again. And then my tablet died. So aside from being down a computer, I had to solve the mystery, something I probably should have done on day one. Turns out, the drain pan of the air conditioner above the ceiling tiles was overflowing. The water was dripping from the cross-ties that the tiles sit on, so the tiles still looked dry.

Uninvited visitors of the creepy crawly type can also disrupt work, although generally not for long. Two years ago, it was stink bugs. They weren’t harmful, but they were ugly and freaky enough to make my staff (and I) jump out of our chairs and abandon our posts temporarily. And they were everywhere. This year, it’s wasps; much more menacing and something that required immediate attention. Problem is, the exterminator can’t do what he has to do while there are patients around. We don’t want a swarm of angry wasps flying around and we don’t want to expose patients to pesticides. So guess who’s staying after hours today?

And remember my post about the clogged toilet? Fortunately, since we got rid of paper towels in the restroom and replaced them with an air dryer, it has only gotten clogged once and it was successfully plunged. Still, that still temporarily renders the bathroom unusable and requires someone to plunge the toilet instead of attending to other things.

There was one day, when, for no apparent reason, our phones wouldn’t work. We knew the phone lines were OK, because the ringer light would flash, but the phones wouldn’t ring and we couldn’t hear anything. God bless the man who invented cell phones. We called the telephone manufacturer’s technical support. The solution? Unplug the phone, take out the battery, but the battery back in and plug in the phone. Yes, really. Simple right? But think about how much time was spent trying to figure out whom to call, getting a human on the line and finding the right solution.

Running a practice is hard enough. Sometimes a monkey wrench gets thrown in there and makes it even harder.