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Taking one for the team


Even though the end result may not be the most ideal for you, there are still people out there who will sacrifice if the conclusion benefits the majority.


Even though the end result may not be the most ideal for you, there are still people out there who will sacrifice if the conclusion benefits the majority.


Dianna E. Graves

Putting It In View By Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed

Recently we needed to add a new technician lead to the group, as the leads are in charge of running their clinic.

We have seven clinics located throughout the St. Paul area, so the lead technician works to ensure that:

  • The technical staff is running up to speed and working as a team.

  •  The clinics are clean and safe for our patients.

  • Coordinate the day with the staffs at the front desk and optical to ensure that all goes smoothly and calmly, or as calmly as it can potentially be.

By nature, some days are just whirlwinds and others days are gentle breezes.

A couple of months ago, one of our current leads, in a busy two-doctor office, asked for a break from the action. She requested to be moved from her lead role to go back into the general technician population in order to give her brain a rest.

While losing a lead, even for a rest can be very disruptive, I would rather let them relax a bit and be just a tech than to insist she stay in her role, burn out and then possibly leave the practice.

Thus we began a search of the current staff for the next lead.

Searching for the perfect lead

This is not an easy endeavor. While all of the technicians in our group have laudable skills and talents, being a lead needs a different breed of technician.

I felt we had two technicians that demonstrated they had matured enough in the past year to be groomed to become the next lead.

As I have in the past, I then would have spoken to those candidates, discussed the potential of training to be a lead and waited to see their reaction.

I have seen every possible reaction when I have discussed moving a technician into a role outside of their comfort level-whether it be diagnostics, minor procedures, or being a lead.

Their reactions can range from:

  • Elation to absolute terror

  • Instant megalomaniac

  • Then the often-witnessed sullen behavior because they don’t want be in charge even though for years they have stated they could do it better!

But for some reason this time, I spoke to three of our seasoned leads and asked what they thought of my choices and two agreed with my selections, but one went 180° and threw another name in the hat.

Running into trouble

She felt that a third technician, Mandy, was the best candidate.

This sent me hurtling back to the day, 7 months ago, when Mandy walked into my office and declared that she wanted to be given a chance to step up into a leadership role.

She felt she had matured enough to do so and it was time for me to consider making her a lead when I had the next opportunity.

But now I had a problem.

I was willing to give her a chance but I needed one of the smaller, one-doctor clinics, to put her in so she could train and learn-without being blown away by trying to run one of the manic, larger two- or three-doctor clinics.

So where’s the problem?

The lead that recommended Mandy had the clinic I needed Mandy to go into!

Patti would need to leave so that Mandy could call it her own. Patti was going to have to go to our newest clinic that was a two-doctor clinic and very busy.

Crisis averted

I went over one morning to share the news with Patti, but she was already aware of the problem.

“So, it’s not too late. Should we choose one of the other technicians and wait a bit more on Mandy?” I asked her.

“I can’t believe I am saying this-but no…she is ready and I guess she should have my clinic so she can get a good start under her belt,” Patti said. “I will go to Sara’s clinic and run it while she is gone. Then can we revisit it down the line when things are settled down?”

In that moment, Patti had matured way above and beyond by taking one for the team and continuing to push for her teammate to be the next lead-even if it meant disrupting her whole work life for a while. I was quietly so proud of Patti for stepping up into that situation for the good of the group.

And it stayed in the back of my mind-until last week.

Not the only one

I was watching the evening news and saw a story about Lance Corporal Bradley O'Keefe who had been injured while on duty in Afghanistan. He had finally been reunited with Earl, his black Labrador, whose training was in bomb detection.

Earl was a hero because he saved 13 members of O’Keefe’s Army unit by alerting them to a hidden explosive nearby just before an unknown enemy soldier exploded it.

Although O'Keefe, who was seriously injured by the blast, was sent home to the United States, Earl was sent back into another unit to continue his service.

While recovering, O'Keefe had lost hope of ever seeing his former partner again, until his step-sister intervened on a mission of her own to track down Earl and reunite him with her brother.

After a long year of looking, his sister was finally able to track Earl down.

After the military began to downsize their K-9 corps, Earl was transferred to the United States.

Earl eventually was sent to Rhode Island, where he was assigned to Trooper Damien Maddox.

One of Earl and Maddox’s missions was responding to Boston the evening of the marathon bombings to sweep for any additional explosives.

Even though Earl had been partnered with Maddox-and might have worked 4 or 5 more years with him-when O’Keefe’s sister called and told the Rhode Island police chief of her brother’s story, the final decision was delegated to Maddox, who agreed without hesitation.

"O'Keefe needs Earl more than I do,” said Maddox, as he gave Earl’s leash to O’Keefe.

O’Keefe and Earl were finally reunited at the Rhode Island State Police headquarters, where O'Keefe received a Purple Heart for his injuries in Afghanistan.

There are many forms of taking one for the team-from O’Keefe’s injuries serving his country to Maddox returning his partner back to O’Keefe.

Of course, last but not least, there’s Patti giving up her clinic so someone else could shine

Who says there are no heroes left?

Dianna E. Graves, COMT, BS Ed, is clinical services manager at St. Paul Eye Clinic PA, in Woodbury, MN. Graves is a graduate of the School of Ophthalmic Medical Technology, St. Paul, MN, and has been a member of its teaching faculty since 1983. She can be reached at dgraves@stpauleye.com.


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