I have a dear friend who is a VP in a publicly traded health care company. For years, she and I have mused about making a career change. We laugh about becoming baristas and spending the next phase of our lives wiping down counters and bantering with customers. A real change from the stresses and drama of health care administration.

Oh sure, there’d still be real work to do—things like ordering supplies, stocking shelves, doing accounts payable, etc. But think of it. After all that’s done, the most stressful thing we’d have to do is get customers’ coffee orders right and be nice to people all day.

What’s not to love about that?!

Hey Maria, toss me that apron, will ya? I think Joe Cocker had us in mind when he released the song “It’s High Time We Went.”

Lyrics: “Well it’s 5 o’clock in the morning and it feels just like the end of a mule. Somebody’s been yawning, trying to break out of the rules. Ain’t it high time we went?

Chaos Theory

As a turnaround specialist (read: glorified clean up lady) who spent her career helping struggling medical practices, I spent beaucoup years, right down there at eye level—staring at the back end of that mule.

It didn’t smell like a bed of roses, but I was able to carve out quite a niche for myself by bringing up the rear (pun intended) and cleaning up other people’s messes. The commodity I traded in was chaos—multiplicities of practice dysfunction.

I had years of experience as a circus ringmaster and I was quite an expert at juggling—things like billing backlogs, office politics, ballooning overhead, obstinate staff, disruptive doctors, etc. Barnum & Bailey would have been a logical lateral career move, had I not retired.

Sound enticing? You riveted yet?

Enter Guns Blazing

Essentially I was the hired gun—brought in by physicians and/or their accountants—to do whatever was necessary to get things turned around quickly. And did I ever take my job seriously!

On Day 1, I would arrive in the appointed practice wearing my black kevlar business suit, accessorized with my asbestos shield and a full array of tactical gear. With a snappy salute and a perfunctory clicking of the heels of my sensible-yet-stylish dress shoes, I spun around like Mary Poppins and promptly set about ‘getting things done’—in textbook David Allen fashion.

Metrics Busting Was My Thing

As I said in some detail in another post, I gravitated into doing this kind of work, partially because I couldn’t say no, and partially because I was trying to prove my relevancy to someone (anyone!)at that time. And boy, did I trip the light fantastic to please.

I loved delivering my “Here’s what it was when I got here” … and … “Here’s what it is now” kind of presentations to show how much I’d accomplished. To increase the wow factor and further emphasize the improvements I made, I presented my metrics using colorful charts, graphics, and bold revenue numbers.

Simply put, I was on an ego trip. Some would suggest that it’s not bragging when what you’re presenting is facts—and my presentations were. My claims were always supported by accountant-approved financial statements and best of all—validated bank deposits.

Trust me boys and girls, nothing says success to doctors like showing them the color green … green dropping below the line for distribution to their personal W2’s. Even better, doctors’ wives loved it.

Cleaning The Entire House

I didn’t just work my magic on the financial side of the house. I also mopped up all the excrement—handling hot-potato HR and performance issues that derelict predecessors allowed to languish unattended (sometimes for years) before my arrival.

And like the good little Pollyanna People Pleaser that I was at the time, I dutifully stood in the blast furnace—taking the heat for the physicians.

Channeling Wonder Woman, I caught bullets with my teeth. My role required me to make wholesale (and often very unpopular!) changes to the status quo—all directed and overseen by The Physician Board—who often hid under my skirt as if they had no prior knowledge of the action plan.

Dirty Deeds (Not) Done Dirt Cheap

My management style was often described by the doctors as one of “approachable gravitas”. [Eye roll.]

Yeah well, that’s just Yale doc-speak. A codified way of blowing smoke up my skirt and tacitly saying that I always stepped up and did what had to be done. Overall, the surviving staff members weren’t too afraid to walk past my door—most days.

By cleaning up their business offices, I got the docs paid by all that were due from the insurance companies—and on a consistent and timely basis. By streamlining their clinical and business processes, they were able to see more patient in a day, therefore able to bill more.

The medical groups I led always became ‘better performers’. In other words, they significantly surpassed industry benchmarks for efficiency.

P.S. Long story short … The doctors made more money … They paid me well … And a good time was had by all.

So what’s no to love about doing this kind of work? Why am I happy that I don’t have to do it anymore?

Hidden In The Fine Print

Nothing was inherently wrong with doing this kind of work. It’s a lot like cleaning toilets—someone has to do it—and in the case of doctors, that someone usually gets paid handsomely to poke around in the poo.

Hidden in the fine print was the fact that I was never cut out for or enjoyed doing that kind work. I never divulged this until now (when I’m permanently retired and don’t give a rip what people think) but I hate being a boss.

Wait. What?

Yes, I was simply playing a role. I did it well. I got paid well. But I hated every time I had to be The Bad Guy. Though I moonlighted as The Big Bad Boss from 9 to 5—the truth was that I wasn’t big or bad—at all. I had a very soft underbelly in that I was born sanguine to the bone.

Admittedly, being the sometimes-ominous-but-friendly boss was how I supported my addiction to food, clothing, and shelter, but that whole ‘business’ sphere was never the dominant center of my intelligence. It wasn’t even my comfort zone.

Unpacked and straight-out-of-the-box, my default setting and personality is one as a playful Creative—happiest when I’m writing, doing graphics, and staying behind the scenes. Who knew?!

Meanwhile … Back At The Ranch

So, until I get the call from Maria to join her at the coffee shop, I’m spending my time playing with digital media and being creative.

I witnesses a lot of funny stuff while crouched down behind that mule. I had to take everything seriously at the time, but not any more. It’s time to mine it for all it’s worth.

Who knows? I may even publish my own humorous expose on practice management, spilling the tea.

Whoa Nellie!

Now before sweat beads start popping out on anyone’s pretty little foreheads, relax. Take a chill pill.

My Mama raised me right and I do have manners. I would never use anyone’s real names or use enough identifying characteristics and descriptions to single out any real individuals. That’s not to say that I won’t be like Taylor Swift and hide a few subtle clues for entertainment purposes.

So should I do publish a kiss-and-tell, you’ll just have to use your imagination to see if you can identify any of the characters who served as my inspiration.

To be continued ….