My First Challenge

Chaos.

That is what the department ran on.

Each day opened with some new crisis that had to be averted and solved before doing anything else.  It’s like the ladies thrived on chaos and crisis mode.

Most people who know me know that I do not like chaos.

I seek calm, organization and processes.

Challenge – yes.  Chaos – no.  Medical Staff was both at once.

As different challenges came up, I would ask, “Why is this not already planned for?  Why are we struggling to put out this fire rather than being on ‘fire watch’?”

The responses I received were varied, but similar: “We don’t have time for that” and “It’s not our fault that we’re behind”.  I tried to explain that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, but little changed.

So, as issues arose, I would make notes about what went well and what went wrong and planned for future responses if it or something similar happened in the future.

One of the reoccurring challenges that seemed to catch them unawares was the committee meetings we were responsible for – Credentials and Medical Executive.  Oh, they knew when the meetings were scheduled each month, but they seldom seemed ready for them to happen.

My first month there, I asked – “Why are we making copies and assembling binders?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to display this information on the overhead or use tablets?”  I was told, “Of course it would, but our attendees want paper.”

That first month, assembling binders for the various committees, was chaotic when it didn’t need to be.  I had experience in preparing for meetings in the past – I have never been so stressed out as I was that first time helping them with meeting prep.  I immediately began making changes.

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Fun Fact – our Physician Liaison told me that before I came to the department, he always wanted to come in on meeting day with a leaf blower to add to the chaos.

 

They waited to make copies until the day of – guaranteeing that the copy machine would break, run out of toner or paper.  Their rational – the documents sometime change, there’s no sense making copies if you just have to recopy them.  True – but when you are putting together 10-20 sections (with page counts anywhere from 1-100), you cannot wait until 2 hours before the meeting to make 20 binders and expect to be done on-time.

As soon as a document was “ready” – I made the required number of copies.  Sometimes that meant I was making copies a week in advance.  Even if I had to recopy the same document 3 times due to changes, I was gaining sanity for myself the day of the meeting.  Now – be reasonable – use common sense people – I did!  If it was only a one page section – piece of cake to copy multiple times.  If it was a 100 page section – I made darn sure it was 99% correct before I made copies.

I verified a month before, the week before and then again the day before that the meeting room and catering menu (as the meetings were held at lunch time) were confirmed.

I made sure the morning/day of the meeting I had nothing else of importance scheduled or planned.  My important task, my one frog, was preparing for the meeting.  That meant that, for me, emails were secondary.  I wasn’t on the phone like my coworker was, calling applicant references begging for that last verification that we were still pending.  Once I started processing files many months later, unless the decree came from the Chief of Staff, Chief Medical Officer or President, if an applicant didn’t have a complete file, they were tabled until the next month.

I planned, anticipated and, to the best of my ability, executed that everything would be ready by a minimum of one hour before the meeting.  This ensured that if something out of the ordinary did happen – broken copier, last-minute document change, roaming mariachi band (that never happened, but if it did to you – that’s awesome!) – I still had time to complete preparing for the meeting without stress.

I could always count on my coworker to tell me exactly how the meeting day would unfold.  She never told me in exact words that the day was shaping up to be calm or stressful – but she showed me in actions.  All I had to do was walk in the main office door and watch her reaction.  If she smiled and said “Good Morning!”, I knew it was a calm day.  If her eyes were huge and said, “Thank goodness you’re here!”, I knew it was a stressful day.

As the months went on, the day of the meetings became less and less stressful on everyone in the office.  Partly, because I knew what to expect and what I was doing, but mostly because I planned in advance how the day would run.  Was it always perfect?  No.  But challenges became minor inconveniences rather than full-blown panics.

What challenges are you battling?  How can you make it less stressful?