I Got a Promotion! Sort of … Also, There are Two Less People at Work

Ignore the picture – it’s years old. I’d update it, but the company would charge me $10 bucks and … screw it.

I got promoted! Actually, it was either get promoted or get laid off.

I chose the promotion.

I never, in my wildest dreams, ever even considered being a medical assistant. I did throw around either a medical transcriptionist or a paralegal in my lifetime, but never a medical assistant.

But when you stumble on an opportunity you might as well grab hold and hang on for dear life.

And I assure you, I’m hanging on for dear life.

It all started with a staff meeting back in … February? (Wow – seems longer – WAY longer. Like YEARS ago ...).

We knew changes were coming down the pike, we just didn’t know how that was going to ultimately affect us.

I admit, I was pretty cocky. I was good at my job. My bosses loved me. My shit didn’t stink. I was secure and quite confident that whatever happened, they would always need schedulers. Right?

Uh. Not so much.

We learned, in that meeting, that the scheduling positions were being eliminated. And they were going to make the existing medical assistants start scheduling. And the existing schedulers had the choice of either getting on board with this plan, i.e. become medical assistants, or adios, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

I chose to stick around.

But after I got over my initial shock of NO LONGER HAVING A JOB, or at least, no longer having the job I’ve done for the past two years and am familiar/comfortable with, I started to get excited. Because I enjoy challenges. I enjoy stretching my abilities and adapting to new environments.

Alas. Not everyone felt the same way.

In fact, it’s safe to say there were two people who were ABSOLUTE BITCHES about the entire thing.

We will hereby dub them, “the mean girls.”

The head honcho over the clinic was pretty smart about this transition, if you want my opinion. First, he came up with the plan of converting the existing schedulers (i.e. me and two other girls – the fourth girl had already accepted a position at a different facility doing precertifications and BOY, I bet she thought she couldn’t have timed that move any better) into medical assistants, thereby effectively saving our jobs. And secondly, he gave us control over HOW we were going to redefine our jobs.

Sure. He could have simply come in and said, “this is how we’re doing things from now on – take it or lump it”, but he didn’t. He told us we had two goals: to come with ways 1. the nurses would be responsible for putting in the orders and 2. to bring our telephone scores up.

Apparently, the hospital employs an independent phone survey company to call patients and ask them a series of questions about how satisfied they are with our services. And the hospital does this to work on being a better facility for our patients AND to train employees to automatically give better service because good old O’bummerCare will only pay out depending on how satisfied the patients are with our service.

Assholes need not apply.

So. The meetings began. We got together, we brainstormed, we bitched, we came up with ideas, we bitched some more, and then we tried some our ideas out. It was a TRUE trial and error and It. Was. Not. Easy. But we stumbled through it and here’s what we came up with: we were each assigned to one doctor. (And I LOVE my doctor’s team, thank the good Lord above).

And we eliminated voicemail. We answer ALL calls live in what we “affectionately” call, THE PIT.

THE PIT is where everyone goes if we’re not in clinic with our doctors. And in THE PIT, everyone answers the calls as they come in and tries to help the patients with whatever needs they’re calling in for. And most times, we CAN help them. Patients have questions about post-op restrictions, or they want to reschedule, or they want a refill on their prescriptions (which I can now take care of providing I get permission from the doctor/nurse to do so – I can’t just make that call).

Patients love it. However – I. HATE. IT. WITH. EVERY. FIBER. OF. MY. BEING.

But I don’t like answering the phones anyway. Ever. I’ve always hated talking on the phone. But since patients love it and management is getting less complaints about phone calls not being returned, it’s not going away any time soon. I guess I’ll deal with it.

Two of the gals that have been with the clinic for years (like 19 years!!) got so fed up with the changes and couldn’t accept that they were now going to be expected to actually WORK for their paychecks (they would do their jobs, but when the last patient had been seen for the day, they would literally spend the last few hours of the day goofing off or updating their Facebook statuses on their phones (because sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are blocked at work).

So. They quit. In fact, one was ASKED to go home and never return because she was such a diva/princess personality that she thought it was totally acceptable to leave the clinic for hours but only make it look like she had only been gone for a short time and have someone clock her in/out. Which we ALL KNOW is stealing time from your employer and a huge no-no.

But honestly, few tears were shed because they were the mean girls who were bringing everyone else down and just being difficult overall and now that they’re gone? We’re ALL happier. So it actually worked out for the best, to be honest.

We have not had formal training. I was a bit surprised that we weren’t required to take classes in order to become medical assistants. We were shown how to take someone’s blood pressure and how to start office notes and obtain pertinent medical information for the doctor but only on established patients – the doctor obtains all of that information on new patients. We will take CPR classes eventually, but since we’re surrounded by nurses and PA’s I guess my boss doesn’t think that’s a high priority right now. It’s not a hard job, but it’s a physically demanding job as I’m on my feet all day when I’m in clinic. I’ve been wearing a pedometer, just out of curiosity, and I’m walking, on average, three miles on the two days I’m in clinic. I’m not complaining – it’s NICE to not sit on my butt all day long anymore.

We have the option of taking the certified medical assistant test after two years of experience. We will then get a substantial raise and be able to do more than we’re doing now. I’m totally doing that – providing I’m around in two years. I have mixed feelings about taking the test. On one hand, if I’m around for that long, why wouldn’t I take the test and make more money?? But then again, if I invest the time and money (it’s about $100 to take the test), why would I quit and go somewhere else? So it’s almost like, if I take the test, then I’ll feel a bit trapped into being a medical assistant for the rest of my life.

I hate being locked into something like that, especially since I never really saw myself making a career out of the medical field to begin with, but those are the cards I’ve been dealt and to be honest, I enjoy what I’m doing and I’m good at what I do so … why not??

I have no interest in becoming a nurse. (Though don’t quote me on that – again – I never, EVER saw myself doing what I’m doing now). I highly doubt I ever do anything more than what I’m doing now. It’s sort of a nice mix of having responsibility, but not having THAT much responsibility. The nurse’s have A LOT of responsibility and quite honestly, I’m not sure I’m passionate enough about the industry to commit to anything more than what I’m doing now.

Here’s what my week looks like now:

Monday/Wednesday – CLINIC DAY: Get to work at 7:15 a.m. and start office notes for the patients that are coming in to see my doctor that day. Turn the lights on in our five exam rooms, pull fresh paper over the exam tables and boot up the computers and open up the medical records program. Print off four copies of the day’s schedule – one for me, the nurse, the PA and the doctor. I highlight all of the new patients on the doctor’s copy as he’ll be responsible for interviewing the new patients, diagnosing them and ordering further testing for them.

I then start calling the patients back that are in the waiting room. I weigh the patients, show them to an exam room, ask them questions about their pain (if they’ve been seen before), and take their blood pressures. Then I put the number of the exam room on their super bills, place their charts in the appropriate place (the PA sees first post-op appointment patients) and then go out and call another patient back to another exam room. I’m responsible for making sure the exam rooms are full at all times. And when the doctor, or the PA, are finished with the patient, then I schedule them for whatever is recommended, (if I have time – sometimes we move so fast I don’t have time to do that), and show them out of the clinic. If I get tied up with a patient (and there’s a certain “art” in keeping patients on track because I have one of those “tell me your life stories” faces), then the nurse and the PA step up and show patients back to rooms, providing they have time. The nurses are responsible for setting up surgeries by educating the patient on what to expect and calling the hospital to put them on the surgery schedules.

I also answer phone calls and pages for the nurses if they aren’t available to take calls when we’re in clinic. This includes the physician’s line, which is a dedicated cell phone JUST for physicians to call each other on. When that sucker rings, my heart drops to my feet because I know it’s another doctor wanting to speak to my doctor. It’s sort of an intimidating conversation, truth be known.

After the last patient has been shown out of the clinic for the day, (and our clinic days usually run between 25 – 32 people), I don a pair of surgical gloves, take a few packets of disinfectant into the rooms and thoroughly wipe them down. I then spray some clinical disinfectant in the rooms to make them smell nice once more. (People are truly stinky when they go to the doctor).

I usually have about an hour, to an hour and a half left of my day and I then go through my flags, return phone calls and go through the clinic to schedule the patients that either I didn’t have time to schedule while they were in clinic, or patients I didn’t see before they left the clinic.

Tuesday/Thursday/Friday – PIT DAYS: Yuk. These are my least favorite days, though they are ultimately more relaxing than clinic days. I have a “station”, in the old nursing area (which poor nurses, they don’t have a home now that we’ve gone through this transition and they use their doctor’s offices to work out of now) that I use as my working space. I put on a pair of headphones and answer calls as they come in. (Whenever someone calls, ALL of our phones rings, so the entire day phones are ringing in stereo and whoever is free to answer the phone, does so). In between phone calls, I answer flags (which is an interoffice message system between us and the nurses), return phone calls and schedule appointments. I also go through upcoming clinics to make sure the patients have done the testing that was recommended at the last visit and make sure the films from those tests are on our system for the doctor to pull up and look at when the patients arrive for clinic. If patients didn’t have their testing done, for whatever reason, then I call the patient and reschedule their testing and often times, their appointment with the doctor because nothing is more frustrating to the patient and the doctor for a patient to return and not have done what they needed to have done before coming back. It’s a waste of time and money for all concerned and it makes the doctors quite cranky.

Because the phones can get overwhelming at times and because the pit can be quite overstimulating with the phones ringing and everyone talking at once, we have instigated “quite time” where we go out to the old scheduling desks for an hour to clear our heads and get some stuff done we don’t otherwise have time to do in between phone calls on high volume days. (Mondays and Thursdays are the WORST in the pit). That quiet time is a GOD send sometimes, trust me.

Fridays, since we’re all in the pit together, it’s not so bad because we have more of us answering calls and we end up answering less calls because of the extra man power. We also restock the exam rooms and make sure they’re ready to go for another crazy week of clinics.

I also do one outlying clinic a month in Carthage. I pack up the van with our laptops and equipment. The receptionist that goes with us packs up all the paperwork and whatnot, and then I drive the van (because they elected me to drive – *GULP*) to the hospital where we pick up the doctor and the PA after they’ve done their rounds, and then the PA (thank God) drives us to Carthage. Me and the nurse unpack the laptops, set them up in the rooms, the receptionist checks the waiting patients in and BOOM, off I go again, rooming patients, asking them questions, getting their weight and blood pressures and setting the pace for the clinic.

The first few weeks of doing my “new job” were exhausting, to say the least. Not only because I was learning new duties, but the emotional stress of trying to keep everything straight for the doctors was mentally challenging. I came home DEAD TIRED. But I’ve been doing this for a few months now and I think I’m getting the hang of it – at least – I haven’t heard any “constructive criticism” in a while so I’m ASSUMING everything is going along smoothly.

I’m still tired when I get home, but it’s a good tired – I feel like I’m really making a difference in people’s lives and have gotten to know quite a few “repeat” patients. It’s honestly a very rewarding job and I’m having fun with it.

I suppose that’s all anyone can ask for in a job. That, and more money … but that’s not happening any time soon so … *sigh*