Help! Our supertech is unlicensed and abusive


Two practice management consultants serve up a heaping helping of advice for a credentialed technician struggling in a practice thats turned a blind eye to an abusive and unlicensed technician who may pushing the boundaries of the credentialing laws in their state.

Q: Before I started working at my practice the hospital got in trouble for having unlicensed technicians practicing as technicians, which is against the law in my state. The “surgical technician” lost her ability to help in surgery but was constantly pushing the limits. When I started she was still trying to do things that she was not allowed to. Then she and the practice were investigated yet again.

She's extremely bitter towards all licensed technicians, and she makes the environment unpleasant. She's constantly trying to push her way into working with the doctors and pushing the technicians out of the way. If any of the technicians say anything to her, we're simply ignored. All day we hear her complain on how she used to be allowed to do this or do that.

The office manager has been told she can't do anything about the employee because she has been at the practice for so many years and she's one of the owner's wive's best friends. She's allowed to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She has created staff animosity and a hostile work environment for the credentialed technicians. Should I leave the practice? Is there anything a technician can do? -Dealing and disgruntled

Shawn McVeyAnswer 1: 

This scenario clearly illustrates the need for emotional intelligence training in our profession. You are stuck in a classic double bind whatever choice you make-support the owner and unlicensed technician or support the law and regulations. When an employee is in this situation it's the owner's job and medical director's job to end the bind by making a decision. So in short, yes you should leave if the leaders aren't willing to manage this for you. 

As to your colleague this technician is confusing the issue and having an emotional response to something that should be dealt with at an analytical level. Holding you and the rest of the team as emotional hostages because of something you and the team have no control over isn't acceptable. Finally, what do your hospital's values and mission say to this situation? Using your values and mission as a source of inspiration for holding others accountable is much better than making the conflict personal.

-Shawn G. McVey, MA, MSW

Sheila GrosdidierAnswer 2: 

From your description, it sounds like there have been an abundance of issues, and not just with this surgical technician. From the human resources perspective the failure of employees to comply with a procedure isn't the sole issue of the employee, it's a management requirement. 

So, your description tells me that there are deep foundational issues at the practice. And, to be clear, your description also suggests that this is a bullying issue. Bullying occurs when management doesn't know how to respond or by their silence allow these conditions to persist or spread. You will need to decide what you can tolerate in a workplace and what could cause you harm.

Unfortunately, many times in these situations, something tragic occurs; a pet dies under questionable conditions, the bullying escalates to a point where it begins to cause emotional or psychological pain or the workplace dips down into toxicity. Then, your energy is spent trying to survive these occurrences. 

Ask yourself this: What do you see happening in the next three, six or nine months? Will this improve? Will the owner's wife suddenly decide the unlicensed technician needs to be fired? It doesn't sound like they're going to change, so it means you change. Do you want to change to fit into this situation? It's them, not you.

And, while there are some coping strategies you can try, the most important point is do you really want to work under these conditions? I recommend you consider looking for an employer who will respect, value and reward your skills and abilities. It's not going to happen here. My experience has been that these situations change when the business can no longer function, and the employers are left with the problem employees because all the high-quality employees have moved on to brighter, respectful practices. 

Think of what your career would be like in a practice that values what you bring to the table. You want to work for an employer you can respect-and a practice you're proud to be associated with. That's not likely to occur where you are right now.

-Sheila Grosdidier, BS, RVT, PHR, MCP, consultant and partner with VMC Inc. 

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