Partners

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 51 , No. 8 , October 2009 , Pages 333 Editorials

I feel very fortunate and privileged to count myself among the 50% of married people who married well. Now in our twentieth year of marriage, my husband has proven to be the most amazing partner, father, provider, and companion that any woman, let alone a woman surgeon, could ask for. But he is not the only partner that I value. Any doctor who runs a busy clinical practice will understand the importance of having a competent medical office assistant or secretary. I have, yet again, somehow managed to be lucky enough to work with the grand champion of MOAs.

My secretary, let’s call her Norine (because that’s her name), has been in the business for many years. She started at the age of 17, fresh out of school, working for one of my senior mentors and has made running a surgical office her career. She knows the ins and outs of surgical bookings and preparations, whom to call to most efficiently book required investigations, and which patients need a little extra TLC. She is unfailingly polite, pleasant, and cheerful on the phone, even when she is unfairly getting the gears, or is the bearer of bad news like surgical cancellations or postponements. She is the organizer of my ungainly waitlist, and when emergencies demand it, she is the one who bravely faces canceling entire clinic days. She is the face of my practice, and our patients consistently and spontaneously remind me that she is a great face. She, without being asked to, organizes patients’ appointments to coincide with other specialists’ so that patients who travel far need only make one trip. She arrives before me in the morning and leaves when she feels her work is done, usually later than I think she should. She suffers through my dictation and its occasional expletives. She doesn’t take enough holidays yet maintains an excellent sense of humor. She knows to be suspicious if I start a conversation with, “Wow, your hair looks really great today!” because it usually means I’ve messed up in some way that means more work for her. She is the den mother for our residents and fellows and every fellow has threatened to hire her away from me. She is not just an employee, she is the most valuable partner I have in my career, and I tell her so as often as I can without crossing that line into stalking. I probably do cross it, actually.

I think that she feels the patients are hers as much as mine, and my patients’ families often know her better than they know me. I am sometimes asked for advice by young trainees, especially young women considering surgical careers and families. How can they balance life and career goals? They can’t do it easily on their own. They need partners. The partners that can be picked should be chosen with great care and respect. In the case of office assistants and secretaries, I tell them to hire the very best person they can, pay them well, and then don’t micromanage them. Value them. Listen to them. Learn from them. Respect their time. Become day-to-day partners in the practice. It really improves your ability to do your own part of the job and decreases your and your patients’ stress.

I’m lucky, I know, to have been able to work with a true gem from the beginning of my practice; many of my colleagues have not had that happy opportunity. I think that in some cases, both on the part of the employee and employer, there might be an unrecognized bias that this is “just a job” or that secretaries are pretty interchangeable. Not in my world. I’ve told Norine that if she decides to retire before me (she is after all a whole one year older!), I will ask her to do one last task: advertise for my position. I couldn’t do it without her.

—CV

Cynthia Verchere, MD. Partners. BCMJ, Vol. 51, No. 8, October, 2009, Page(s) 333 - Editorials.



Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.


For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit www.icmje.org

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply