When Medical Practice Staff Unexpectedly Resign

June 30, 2014

Usually, an employee leaving is bittersweet. But one recent departure was just bitter given the employee's behavior leading up to and following her resignation.

Since I opened my practice nearly five years ago, our staffing has been pretty stable. I've had the same front-office person from the beginning and my other receptionist and medical assistant have been working for us for almost four years. The other physician in our practice has also worked here for nearly four years. Since the practice started, I had one medical assistant quit and my part-time nurse practitioner found a full-time job elsewhere.

Now, I realize that a my staff members are young and that things change in life, and while I would love to have them stay until either I or they retire, I understand that a day may come when they decide to leave. Maybe they'll get married and decide to stay home. Maybe they’ll decide to move to a state where the cost of living is better. Maybe they’ll win the lottery. Maybe they’ll just come across a great opportunity they can’t pass up, and that entails leaving the practice. And I want nothing but the best for them. They are more than my employees. So if and when that day comes, I want to be able to wish them well and send them happily on their way.

Unfortunately, I was recently deprived that opportunity. A few weeks ago, one of them (let’s call her Mary-Kate) told me that she would no longer need medical benefits because she was going to be covered as domestic partner under her boyfriend’s plan. And, since I was not going to be paying her premiums anymore, she wanted a 25 percent raise. Well, it doesn’t work like that. So she said that she just wanted to let me know that she was going to start looking for another job. I asked her how soon she was planning on leaving and whether I should start looking for someone new. She said she wasn’t seriously looking and that she would give me plenty of notice.

OK, my fault. I should have started looking then. I could have brought someone in, had them trained and gotten that person ready for when Mary-Kate left. But I figured she’d let me know if she was actively looking. I could have been a reference. I would have wished her luck at her interviews. But again, I was not given that opportunity, because Mary-Kate lied to me, told me that she had a doctor’s appointment when in reality she had an interview. How do I know? Because not only is she untruthful, she is also stupid enough to post it on the internet. That is also where she posted that she got the job.

When she came in the next day, she handed me her letter of resignation and gave me one week’s notice. One week! Her last day scheduled to be just days before another staff member goes on vacation, leaving one of them to hold down the fort alone. I pointed out to her that she had told me that she was going to give me plenty of notice, but otherwise said nothing. I wasn’t going to ask her to stay longer. Part of me wanted to tell her to get out immediately, but I needed someone to keep doing her job for now.  Her behavior after that was odd. She didn’t speak to any of her co-worker and didn’t tell them she was leaving. Women she sits next to for eight hours a day. Women who have given her advice over the years, listened to her problems, celebrated with. Not a word, for days.

 I was tempted to contact her new employer to tell them what kind of behavior to expect from her. But I decided that, apart from it being a potential cause for a lawsuit, I didn’t want to stoop to her level of subterfuge.

As I said, I know that there are better jobs out there. And I knew Mary-Kate wasn’t staying forever. She’s talked about moving somewhere south, and she just finished school, so I knew she wanted to do more than answer phones (although apparently she will be doing the same type of work at her new job). Her departure could have been bittersweet. We could have had a farewell party. I would have gotten her a little gift. I wish that on her last day I could say, "I wish you could stay here, but I wish you all the best in your future." But instead of bittersweet, it’s just bitter. And all I want to say is, "Don’t screw your new boss or co-workers over."