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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Pynnonen

Dr Friday's Transformation: Feared to Favorite

Updated: May 28

Medical Assistants Reviewing Charts for Clinic

The medical assistants were focused on their work. With pen in hand and head bent over printed schedules, they prepared for an upcoming clinic. They combed through the list of scheduled patients, reviewing notes from the prior visits, talking with the nurse, and trying to anticipate what information, supplies, and equipment the doctor might need for each patient.

Watching this flurry of activity, I couldn’t help but be impressed and grateful. When I spoke up and said so, the nurse explained to me that even though today was only Wednesday, the medical assistants were already busy preparing for Friday clinic. They dreaded Friday clinic.

It was well known among the medical assistants that “Dr. Friday” was impossible to please. No amount of advanced preparation was enough. The doctor was always displeased with their help and seemingly irritated by their presence. Although this team had been working together for nearly a year, the medical assistants believed this doctor didn’t know their names. No eye contact, no expression of appreciation. They were treated dismissively and impersonally.

My heart sank. I had promised the staff this would be a happy place to work and that we would treat each other with respect. I also felt a sense of dread because Dr. Friday had made me feel similarly in the past.

I considered my options. I could do nothing. I could encourage the medical assistants to try harder, perhaps re-introduce themselves. I was tempted to go with one of these options. But that is not what we were working toward. My leadership team had promised the staff a culture of respect. The medical assistants had courageously explained to me that we were falling short. It was now my turn to be brave.

I met with Dr. Friday in his office. I explained the medical assistants’ feelings and the great effort they were expending to try to anticipate his needs. Although he was initially dismissive and defensive, I persisted. I made a simple request: I asked that he come to clinic 2 minutes early each day, greet the staff by name and listen to any comments they wanted to share with him about how they had prepared for his clinic.

Within weeks, the clinic experience was transformed. Several months later, one of the medical assistants exclaimed, “Dr. Friday is my favorite! We love to joke around and tease each other.”

A total win! But this was no small feat. This required courage from many people. Even Dr. Friday. Change is hard. We each have our defense mechanisms in place that we have honed over the years. It takes effort to be willing to consider developing new ways of thinking, relating, and behaving. In this case, I am grateful to my team that they were willing to trust in the vision we were working to create and to play a role in making it happen. I remain grateful to the medical assistants and the nurse for bringing this

concern to my attention. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Friday who was able to take feedback and enact change to demonstrate that he appreciates the medical assistants as valuable team members.

Here’s a conversation with Kristie Rogers, an associate professor of management at Marquette University, about two types of respect that employees value: owed and earned. Professor Rogers explains that owed respect refers to basic workplace civility whereas earned respect is related to an employee’s achievements.

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