Firings, as you might imagine, involve high-running emotions. The fired often erupt with threats – and intentions – to expose the employer’s inner workings to the media, to sabotage their data systems and otherwise make life miserable for those who unwisely chose to terminate him or her. Lawsuits, also, seem almost inevitable these days given the average American’s refusal to put up with anything that isn’t to their liking.
As such, when I heard that our resident had been cut loose, I wanted nothing to do with the process. Foremost, I had no strong opinion about whether or not he should have been let go in the first place. I knew of a few mistakes here and there, but am constantly so aware of my own that it’s hard to imagine any one of us much more pathetic than me. Given the continual grace showered on me by faculty and staff that allows me to keep my job, it’s a strange idea to be involved in any way with the termination of someone else.
So, I suppose I’m insecure about my own level of excellence, which makes me less critical of others; a respectable level of humility that I think struggling in the medical field often engenders in us. But I also just didn’t find the guy to be particularly disagreeable or inept. Here and there mistakes were made, but nothing egregious. So, given my own non-critical assessment of the resident, and the fact that tensions are running high, I wanted nothing more than to keep my head down and cover the extra call when asked.
Not so, of course.
My very own program director chose me from among the available people in our class to serve on the Appeals Committee. His reasoning had little to do with some profound skill or ability on my part. In general, I seemed to fit the bill and my schedule looked like there was room to make the meetings. I harbor enormous respect for our PD. The guy asks me to do something, I’m gonna bend over backward to do it. So I agreed. But now I’m in the thick of this termination thing, which is exactly where I didn’t want to be.
Here’s my new role in the process: The resident has a right to an appeal, just like any defendant in a court case. He gets to make one final case for why his firing was wrong; presenting “evidence” to support that assertion. Initially, I was worried that the resident would ask me to serve as one of the “character” witnesses in this appeals process, which would pit me directly against the faculty that made the decision to fire him in the first place. I ended up on the other side, however, which is to sit with other high-ranking members of the hospital staff in hearing the appeal. Our collective decision regarding the appeal is final. I’m one of 5 people who will make the final decision about whether this resident actually stays or goes.
What my program director pointed out, allying my fears a bit, is that our group isn’t deciding whether or not the resident should be fired. That’s already been done – by the faculty. I was totally removed from that process, and I still have no idea what sort of reasons they had for the decisions they made. My job is to evaluate whether or not the process of termination was followed correctly. In essence, I’m there to help the slighted resident. If he did in fact get shafted by the program, I’ll be part of a group that can point that out and recommend another course of action other than firing.
Sure. Nice. Whatever. I’m still at least obliquely connected to this guy’s demise. I have to listen to his arguments and evaluate the reasoning behind his termination, which means I have to hear all the “evidence” against him. There is the potential for him to hate me, and claim me in some sort of lawsuit. The residents in our program who support him and see his firing as evil, unfair, unjustified, etc will see me as a “company man”; a Gestapo lackey.
I suppose I could help this resident, which would be great. Doesn’t seem like that’s what will happen, though. Instead, I suspect I’ll just end up with blank stares and dubious looks from colleagues who once saw me as a trusting guy they liked and trusted.
This will be great.