By Mark Viau, RT, CRA, FAHRA
Is There Life after
I’ve been in radiology in some form since
1977. Being in the right place at the right
time, I was able to progress from a staff
tech to interventional to a supervisor to
an assistant director to director in a short
amount of time. From director, I had the
opportunity to oversee multiple other
departments, progress to the equivalent
of a COO, and then other doors opened
by training in Lean Six Sigma, working
on the design team for a new facility, and
finally running the business office.
After leaving my first employer of
31 years I was able to utilize my diverse
management skills along with my Lean
training and went on the road as a consultant for 3. 5 years. It was very rewarding
being able to help other facilities in trying
times; however, after waking up in too
many cities and not knowing exactly where
I was I knew I wanted/needed to spend
more time at home. It was time to look
locally for a second career in imaging.
By chance, another local hospital was
in the final stages of opening a second
hospital so I called and got an interview,
not for management, but for a position
as a rad tech. Imagine that at 55 years old
I was considering going back to the start
and doing it all over again. Did I even
remember how to shoot a film (I just
dated myself, there is no film anymore)?
I mean—an image? What about posi-
tioning, techniques, and fitting in with
staff less than half my age? I was offered
a second shift position. As you can guess,
I took the job which would start a cou-
ple of months before the new facility
opened. Have you ever negotiated your
salary at the time of hire when there are
strict guidelines for years of experience? I
suddenly found myself on the other side
of the desk. What was I in for?
I hadn’t done an exam in over 25 years.
To refresh my memory, I downloaded a
PDF file on positioning and focused on
those positions that required angling the
tube or specific body positions. In all, not
too many, so I felt I was ready or as ready
as I could be.
That was all about 1. 5 years ago. Taking
x-rays was truly like riding a bike; it all came
back so fast. And what a joy it’s been to
interact with patients again, the real reason
why we are all here, right? That said—once
a manager, always a manager.
As leaders, we have a role in the good
times where we work (great patient care
and financial performance) and the not
so good times (declining financial performance) and ultimately the solutions
as well. As a tech again, I can do my part
with each patient interaction, but beyond
that my ability to be part of the solution
is limited. I’ve offered to help in any way
I can while being very careful not to over
step my bounds. This has been the single
most difficult thing for me in this transition, going from a difference/decision
maker to not being a larger part of that.
As a director, I was once doing the
review of a technologist who was also a
former director. Believing that reviews
are a time for feedback both ways I asked
him his short term and long term goals.
Not unlike the movie “A Few Good Men”
he stated something like “you can’t han-
dle the answer.” I persisted and he finally
shared with me his goal which was to
have my job. I surprised him when I
started to lay out a plan of what and how
within that organization so if and when it
became available he’d be in a position to
be considered. I always wanted talented
individuals nipping at my heels, it only
made me better.
You may call it a sabbatical over the
past couple of years, but I see it as one
of the most valuable leadership lessons
I’ve had in a very long time. To be in the
trenches again, living the life as a staff
tech has put so many things into perspective. I used to think I knew how changes
in policies, procedures, benefits, staffing,
equipment, and so on affected the staff—
but not really. Living it is so eye opening.
I hope someday I’ll be back in management and when that happens I’ll be
committed to wearing my scrubs more
often than you would think to, once
again, get back to my roots with patient
care and staff and physician interactions.
Something that I feel is needed to be the
very best. Yes, there is life after management and the grass is very green. Why not
join us from time to time? I guarantee
your staff will truly appreciate it.
By the way, I eventually did speak up
and offered to help and am currently
doing what I did as a consultant four days
a month. It’s a start.
Mark Viau, RT, CRA, FAHRA has been in healthcare
for 36 years. He began his career as a radiologic
technologist then held management positions in
medical imaging, cardiology, business office, and
hospital administration. He is certified in Lean Six
Sigma. Mark can be contacted at email@example.com.