Once upon a time, I was a Medical Assistant. My favorite position was as an intern in the Beth Israel Medical Center’s Family Planning unit. I was fascinated with the procedures and enjoyed working hands on. I worked in the OR during surgical procedures, assisted the doctors and drew blood. Fun stuff.
My first paying job in the medical field was a per-diem position, doing finger pricks at corporate health fairs in Midtown Manhattan. They really liked my personality and asked me to work front desk in their physical therapy office. It was okay while it lasted, but I always felt like the one student who did the entire group project alone. The office manager was the biggest drama queen, and entertained herself by gossiping about employees. I suffer from chronic back pain and muscle spasms due to my scoliosis and I wrongfully assumed, its always wrongfully, isn’t it?, that the Pain Management doctor I was working for would take care of me. I mean, that’s what he did right? And since I’m working such long hours that I have no time for my own physical therapy appointments, I’ll just do it at work. Wrong. Wrong.
I’m not a person who likes to ask for help. I’m a real DIY-er so if I reach out, know that I just can’t take it anymore. After years of living with my scoliosis pain, I was used to it, The spasms were there, always. Every minute of everyday I feel pain. I’ve developed somewhat of a tolerance for it at this point. Yet, I reached out to Dr. CheapAss and told him I just could not function. Simple things like picking up the phone, reaching for papers were sending, sharp stabbing pains in my upper traps. I went to him almost in tears and he palpated around my spine. He touched one nerve and I dropped to the floor, shocked. He laughed at me and I was so embarassed. He gave me a shot of lidocaine and sent me on my way. If I attempted to sit at the front desk with ice pack or heat pack, he would be upset, because it looks bad to patients when they are in so much pain they leave work and go to the doctor, yet the staff there is not being treated. I couldn’t do it anymore. I ran out of my reserve stash of giving a shit and I quit.
Naturally, my unemployment ran out six months later and I was again on the hunt. I sent out three resumes, did two interviews and was hired the same day. Ladies and gents, meet Dr. Midlife Crisis. Dr. Midlife is a chiropractor, not as educated as Dr. Cheapass and he seemed really cool. We laughed at the interview and learned we had a few things in common, wit and sarcasm among them. He understood my humor in a way most people don’t, and would let me tease him endlessly. He didn’t even get that mad when I said he looked like Hey Arnold’s grandpa.
At the beginning, things were great. He was laid back, and he liked me so much he got the other part timer fired so he could have me on full-time. This should have been a warning to me, and I thought he was an asshole for it, but he was always trying to justify why he did what he did. He’d say things like “N always had an attitude with me.” “It was so uncomfortable working with her” “She always had a migraine” A migraine? You’re a damn chiropractor, help her!
A few months into the job I started to get a little fed up with this guy. He always talked about how he was approaching his 40th birthday and needed to be in the best shape of his life. He flirted with female patients, and most patients confided in me that he was weird. Dr. Midlife is so starving for attention, he needs to talk about himself every minute. I heard the same stories over and over. We got into a routine, I was his sidekick. He called me the Sassy Latin because I always had some kind of sly remark and would talk back. He let me be me and I enjoyed that. We put on a show for the patients and had a lot of fun. Here’s the thing. The guy didn’t leave me any time for myself. We worked together open-close, five days a week, and he even needed me to take lunch with him. Not only that, this self-centered grown loser would make me add 15 minutes to my commute home so I could walk his grown ass to the train! When I didn’t want to, he guilted me into going with him, saying how it was the best part of his day. That, and sitting with me at Bryant Park for lunch. My friends and patients thought he was weird for that, but I felt bad because clearly the guy doesn’t have any real friends, right? I got tired of hearing the same playlist day in, day out. Other doctors complained because all he wanted to hear was reggae, and while it’s cool for a while, its not an all day everyday thing in corporate NYC. He bragged constantly about spending $6,000 on day camp for his daughter, living in the “top school district”, and all his other rich white people problems. It was annoying and only made him look like a turd. This guy thought he was some kind of celebrity and would tell me to change our office hours so he would have time to go to the gym in the morning. I drew the line and told him if he wanted to go to the gym, he could come into the city an hour earlier everyday like a normal person and make it work. I didn’t have to shut the door to patients for your ego.
I reached out to the owners of the company, about how he wanted me to be his best friend and I just wanted to work. I was told time and time again by these doctors that I was doing the right thing and should keep it professional. They told me how they pitied him for not finding his professional place at 40 years old, he should have had an established practice by now. One of the owners told how he didn’t hire Dr. Midlife 13 years prior because he was just so desperate it was scary.
This man went to my wedding. We met up on weekends with the kids and brought our families together. He told me I was the best work wife he had ever had. He would also text me until 10pm at night with random updates on what he was doing and I wouldn’t reply. The owners of the company had to implement a no communication outside of the office policy because he wouldn’t leave them alone, either. One day, after bragging about another one of his expensive meals, I tell him, “You know, you really do brag a lot.” To which he replied, “Thanks a lot for saying that. You really ruined my day. My personal life is shit and I come to work and put on a show to make myself feel better and I don’t need you telling me I’m bragging”. Ouch, hit a nerve there, did I?
We moved to a smaller office where he would be the only provider so no other doctors could step on his ego anymore; he needed to be the big dog, the guy in charge. My desk space was considerably smaller, and he insisted on standing over me while I worked. I asked nicely for him to step outside of my personal space, he was making me physically uncomfortable. He took it as a joke and didn’t respect my wishes and even called me rude. I left for the day, he went on vacation, and I was fired before I even saw his face again. There was no reason. The owners encouraged me to stand up to him and promised me they would get him in line and then showed up with a document, lied to me about what it was and had me sign. I had never felt more betrayed, hurt and shocked.
I was quickly offered another position by Dr. Chismosa (Gossiper) because she heard how well I could run an office and how much easier I made things for doctors. My name rang bells in Midtown! It started out great; I was making more money, made my own hours and would be home in time to pick up my kids from school. When I asked for pain relief, she joked about needing to include pain management information on the job application. Sorry to bother you doc, I’m dying here. My position was never defined though, and that’s where we messed up. My role and responsibilities kept changing and she was never clear. I worked hard at my computer for hours and she would call and yell at me just because she hadn’t bothered to check what I’d been doing. One day, she called to tell me an employee had been throwing me under the bus and saying I wasn’t getting work done. She even set up a meeting to address the issue, only the issue was never brought up. I figured out that the employee never did lie on me. The doctor is a self-proclaimed gossip lover “and if you ever repeat any of that I’ll deny it and fire you. I don’t give a shit if it’s illegal.” She spoke down to me and yelled like I was her 6 year old son, not allowing me to actually tell her what I’d been working on and she would make me feel bad. “Alexis, I swear there’s not one time I don’t get off the phone with you that you don’t end up crying” which was bullshit, but I did get upset. She had herself a good laugh about it and said, “You’re too sensitive”. She was right. I made up my decision right there. She asked me to mail out some medical records worth a few hundred thousand dollars and I threw them in the trash on my way home. So yea, I’m too sensitive for this shit. And I’m done with Healthcare. Done with Midtown scamming doctors. They don’t care that you’re in pain anyway, they just want you to keep coming so they can keep billing your insurance. There, the veil has been lifted. Just a little glimpse of what happens in between your visits at the doctor.