I have a lot of bad things to say about Mary Minor. But I have to say her hospital policies were some of my favorite and probably THE most successful I’ve worked with. And recently, I have been missing them, and fairly dismayed/frustrated/disgruntled that my current job doesn’t operate that way. Because it would make things a lot easier–and better.
Despite being a total hard-ass with high expectations, things went well and I felt appreciated even though I (and everyone else) was under constant scrutiny to perform at the top-most levels of medicine. Now that I’ve worked at several other places I try to recall how this was made possible. Because apparently it’s a tall order.
I think a lot of Mary’s work success (the first time I worked for her) was keeping staffing issues objective. Mary did not give special treatment to anyone or only chastise non-friends at work. Even though her best friend since high school was her receptionist and her wife was her tech–those 2 didn’t receive any benefit or scorn that the rest of us employees didn’t. Side-note: [And this only goes for the first time I worked for her–when I came back, she was unable to separate the personal from the professional, which caused much of our ugly breakdown. Mainly her problem that I knew too much about her (dirty-dirty) personal, home-life, so she set out to destroy me.]
Everywhere else I worked ran into strife because the boss would favor an employee: I’m looking at you, Jennifer, Dana (to a lessor extent), Heather, Brandon, and Kris. And when the boss favors one employee, that person ends up with the best possible work schedule, and never gets in trouble–not like the rest of the workers. So of course co-workers notice and get disgruntled with both the favored employee and the boss. . .
The high standard of medicine came before the scheduling. Mary made it a top goal to provide better then adequate care for every patient she had. And we were busy. But if we could not handle something at the highest level–we either took more time so we could, or said no and referred (in the case of no money, non-clients). Mary understood that YOU (the business, the owner, the vet) train your clients. The vet hospital requires certain things and you will establish a base of clients willing to follow those rules and guidelines. Everyone who doesn’t fit your business-model will go elsewhere. And even though we routinely told people no, we still had a huge following in the community. And they were (mostly) the good kind of clients. You shape your clientele and your client make-up is what you’re willing to put up with as a business owner.
Other places where I have been employed would forget that the busier and more overwhelmed you are, the lower the standards are for each individual patient. They would let the schedule dictate the standard of care, by squeezing in more and more. So instead of having time to groom surgeries before releasing them, taking vitals on every animal that walks through the door, having a vet check the animal prior to giving a refill, etc. . . you just saw each animal as fast as you could, cutting corners to get on to the next in a timely fashion. Which is increasingly slip-shod.
Bigger then that, Mary held the highest standards while keeping productive employees happy because she was all about teamwork. She really emphasized that success of the practice was dependent upon how the staff worked together. She was fond of saying that we set each other up for success. We had a triple check system. I was never the only one getting yelled at. If something went wrong–it was everybody’s fault. Because in a team environment everybody (doctor included) should constantly be checking that things are getting done appropriately. Also, we celebrated as a team. Of course Mary had an ego like any vet and attributed most of the success to herself, as team captain, and key member of the operation, but she also understood she couldn’t have accomplished as much as she did all by herself. If we had a record dollar day, everybody was congratulated for hustling a$$, everyone was commended for keeping up, everyone was given kudos by everyone. And we did things as a work group. When I went to college, Mary took the staff to Chinese lunch to see me off. When the crazy short-staffed summer was over, she bought wine. So you had motivation to work harder for your team.
At Noah’s Ark, we weren’t a team so much as a family. The difference is in Mary’s work team, we had a clear goal and wanted to perform well to accomplish that goal. At Noah’s Ark it was more of a camaraderie and when that was impossible, tolerance to black sheep of the family. A little less successful, but still more togetherness then most. And we had a group Christmas party and went to the Gentle Doctors Benefit as a group. So our employers made sure we had some fun together, not just the daily grind.
Most other vet hospitals have been fractured. Everyone was out for themselves, and no talk of team or family or otherwise was mentioned. I find this mentality most surprising the smaller the staff. But a small group (forced to spend time together at work only) is different from teams or families. In Washington, we did nothing for any holiday, and when we did (once), it was held over our heads as “our holiday bonus.” At emergency, every hated everyone else and once your shift was over, people RAN out of there. Not nice environments to have to spend time. It makes it more of a grind, and I think affects general work and productivity.
So despite Mary’s many (and accumulating) short-falls, she really did run her business most effectively, from the high standard of patient care, congeniality toward clients, speed of practice, staffing, and success in general. She’s a (homophobic, lying, cheating, manipulative, selfish, on and on) $hit head, but she knows the story when it comes to running a vet hospital . Even with our personal problems, I have to give her that.