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The Other Side: Do You Say No?

My regular readers probably know that I have been consumed by an expansion project at my facility. You may even be tired of hearing about it, but it has provided me with great opportunities of learning, growth and anger management. What I find so valuable is that projects of this size create a fertile environment to build political capital and improve your department’s reputation by solving problems. I have to admit I have been surprised by the lack of cooperation by some people and impressed by others. To me the difference is the first word out of their mouth when asked a question. Is it “no”?

It has never been my philosophy as a manager, or as a person in general, to start a sentence with “no” when another person is in need. I think any biomed program that has the culture of not saying no is most likely valued and appreciated within their facility. I think one of the main reasons many biomed techs are considered the “go-to guys” is because they share this philosophy.

To me, our most valued purpose is to solve problems. Our customers expect their equipment to be checked, repaired and to receive regular maintenance. Any biomed program can do that. What separates the great programs from the rest is the way they handle the problems in the gray area. I tell my team that for any problem our customers ask us about, they should take a first look to see if it is something simple or not.

If it is not, we will own the problem until we can get it to the right person for resolution. There isn’t anything that frustrates me more than to hear a customer complain that they had XYZ problem and spent a week hearing all the different people tell them it was not their job, only to find the problem was something simple like an on-off switch or bad power cord. My experience is that 80 percent of problems are simple fixes. Do they take a little extra time? Sure, but isn’t that what we are employed to do?

As we have moved forward with the opening of our new tower, fortunately and unfortunately I have had many opportunities to help my customers. Most of those opportunities had absolutely nothing to do with medical equipment. I had access to the building before most because we were installing equipment in it, and I fostered a good relationship with the construction manager of the project. This relationship provided me with a point person (who never said no) who could answer questions from my customers.

The scenario often went like this: My team and I would be in an area installing equipment or checking it in, and we would overhear a nurse manager or staff member complain about a problem. We would ask them who they talked to, get the details of the problem and go to my contact for information on who could fix it. The process worked great. The building construction manager appreciated me informing him of problems, and my customers got their problems solved. Staying ahead of all the little things became important as we neared occupation and our grand opening.

During the busiest times, we were being asked about doors, cabinets, water supply, disposables, flooring and locks. Note none of these problems are related to medical equipment. At times I hated that I put myself in this position – my phone seemed to ring constantly, but it was always worth it when I saw the thankfulness in the faces of the people I helped. What is most notable is that I did not pick up one tool to fix anything. I just facilitated the solution. My point is that just because it is not medical equipment doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help. What I have found is that my customers remember that we went out of way to solve their problems (that were not medical equipment), and we have gained tremendous respect in all aspects of our relationships with them.

I look at it this way: Our actions will impact a patient sooner or later because ultimately that is who we serve. If we affect them negatively or positively, is up to us and how we conduct business. So when we tell Nurse Judy no we won’t look at her broken IV pole, or radio, or TV, we are really saying no to someone who is sick, needs our help and is paying our salary. Because the things that are broken are used to support Nurse Judy in her efforts to provide patient care. Our biomed programs shares many gray areas with maintenance (typically good at saying no) and whenever they won’t help I tell them that the repair is not for me, it is for the patient.

If your biomed program is struggling and your customers do not give you outstanding marks, you may want to ask yourself: Are you saying NO?

Jim Fedele, CBET, has been with Medical Dealer magazine for more than 12 years. He is currently the director of clinical engineering for Susquehanna Health Systems in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments by e-mail at info@mdpublishing.com.