Now I’m Involved

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.

9 thoughts on “Now I’m Involved

  1. I know a little bit about how you are feeling. I hired many nurses, fired many nurses, have been on an appeals committee in the past, have reported other nurses to the board (usually for substance abuse), have recently fought a hard battle to prevent my current nurse Clinical Manager from resigning, and have also survived being falsely accused of sexual misconduct (after 6 hours of testimony, it finally came out that my accuser falsely accused me in order to “get back at me” for turning him in to the board, even though as it turns out, I was not the one that reported him). My advice to you is to see yourself as an instrument of justice, and that you are probably there because folks think of you as a just person. I play a lot of roles in my job, and it is a hair-raising balance of brother, father, good cop, bad cop, judge, jury, executioner, redeemer. If you are there because folks trust you, then do what they believe you are already good at — listening and being fair. You’ll have some sleepless nights… but I guess you’re supposed to, that’s why you’re there. Good Luck!

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  2. First of all, now that you are involved in an official capacity, this needs to drop off the blog. You may be able to come back with an epilogue once it’s all said and done, but in real time, it is dangerous to your career, and unfair to your institution and the resident in question to blog about this.

    Second, understand that this is not personal, or at least it should not be. I’ve had to fire people, and it is never fun and always makes me feel terrible afterwards. Listen carefully to the issues as they are presented, consider the remediation that they tried and how well the resident tried to comply with it, and make a judgement. You’re not there to “help him,” you’re not his advocate; you are there to see that the rules were followed and that the process was fair.

    Third, the best thing you can do for your own reputation is not to talk about the proceedings. There is sure to be a lot of interest, and your colleagues may come to you to hear the “real story.” They may want to validate their own feelings that the firing was justified or that it was a vendetta. Don’t say a damn word. Any inquiry should be met with an polite, “You know I can’t talk about that.”

    Good Luck. It’s never fun, but you should feel proud that you have the respect of your director.

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  3. joe

    Don’t blog about this subject. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of a ‘legal” issue with a land shark asking you questions. Remember flea.

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