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Confessions of a laid-off hospital administrator

Posted Jun 03 2009 11:59am

by Toe Knee Chin*

If you have been following my twitter feed, you'll know that I was laid off from the business development director role at my health system about six weeks ago. I was called into my boss's office and the HR professional was also sitting at the table. Even though I had prepared for this moment and I knew it was coming, my heart was still pumping when I heard, "Unfortunately...Your position was one of the ones that has been eliminated."

Thousands of times over, this is happening in hospital offices across the country. In fact, just in Chicagoland alone, there's probably been 1,000-plus layoffs. As such, this is obviously a pretty touchy and raw subject for many. Nonetheless, for me, at the risk of sounding a little insensitive or overly positive, I've taken this whole situation as a great opportunity, and am looking at it as great timing.

I don't get philosophical too often here at Hospital Impact, but maybe this topic deserves a bit of just that. Here are some things I've been thinking about:

1. Being laid off has given me some much needed time to slow down a bit. Sometimes the hurry of life prevents us from really reflecting about how we're wired and what we're passionate about. I truly enjoyed my role in the health system but not for the reasons I initially thought. I know that as I step into my next chapter, I feel 10-times more equipped to find something that will fit me like a glove because I've had some time to really think things through.

At a deeper level, I think our media-junkie culture also makes it easy for us to fill up our days so much that we don't have to face ourselves. For me personally, it has been a great time to slow down and renew my faith walk. It has been both challenging and rewarding to not do anything, but rather, just be. No big titles. No accomplishments to achieve. Nothing to prove to anyone. Just enjoying being present in the moment.

2. Being laid off brings out the best and worst of people. I feel the same way about money. The famous saying among superstar athletes is that making a lot of money doesn't change people--it just amplifies who they already are. I think being laid off (or watching it happen to your colleagues) is the same. Folks that were already insecure become more so. Folks that are positive and motivated see it as an opportunity. Laid-off lemonade, so to speak. For the laid off and the left-behind, these layoffs really mess with you, especially if your value and sense of self-worth is overly-tied to your work. You really have to do some reflection about what truly motivates you, and how you define value in yourself.

3. Healthcare--and in particular hospital administration--is such a small world. Everyone literally knows everyone. I believe it now more than ever. I feel very fortunate to have met so many people through this blog, and it has definitely helped me transition into the next chapter (more on that soon). Nonetheless, 100 percent of professionals know that they need to network. My advice: Be in the 5 percent that actually do it. And do it before you need it. If you wait until you need to do it, it'll be too late. All of my leads were with people who already knew me well.

4. Hospital culture varies as much as hospitals vary. Some cultures are very execution-oriented. Some are very relational-oriented. Some are very planning-oriented. Some cultures are just nice. Some cultures are too nice.

Nonetheless, no culture is right or wrong, as long as the cultures don't get in the way of great and sustainable patient care. But, now I know more about myself and what type of cultures I will thrive in. A question I now will always ask in all my future interviews (sitting on both sides of the table): What three words best describe the culture here?

Side note: Of course, even within a hospital exists many subcultures. Some would argue that a hospital has as many cultures as it has people managers.

5. Being laid off means more time with the family this summer. I've already scoped out all of the free outings here in Chicago. This will be a memorable summer of some great day trips for me and my 3-year-old.

6. Some practical advice: Check out this savvy daddy blog post I wrote on the 20 things to prepare for the down economy --this encapsulates most of it. Hit up all the job boards (ACHE & HFMA have good ones), but more importantly see item No. 3 from above. Also check out this list of 30 websites to hit when you're laid off; it's from one of my favorite blogs, Mashable.

So, that's my laid off story, forever enshrined on the Internet for all to see. Anyone care to share their laid off story? Any tidbits of advice on getting to the next chapter?

* - Toe Knee Chin is obviously not my real name, but I'm guessing you figured out who I am. Others randomly googling me can, too, but at least, it'll take them some head scratching and savviness to figure it out.

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