Nurses’ Week Gifts: 20% recycled polyester and wrote to Target
June 4, 2020
On Tuesday I had a mentally exhausting day. Sometimes the mental exhaustion from work is not proportional to the “importance of the project.” I will probably be able to help change the entire leadership structure of our department quicker than it took to finish this project. Thus is the frustrations of middle management.
Every year as an office we give two large gifts to our nurses which the doctors contribute. The first is our Holiday Party and the second is Nurses’ week gifts. Our organization does not give bonuses, and it’s been traditional for the doctors to organize these two events. Early on in my career I avoided being the young woman who was saddled with these “fluff” tasks (trust me older male colleagues quickly tried to dump it on me) as I was well aware from my medical school mentors that as an ambiitious woman, one should not become the cupcake leader. These tasks take up a disproportionate amount of time, and even though one gets “thank yous” – there is no benefit to your career. I remember one year doing most of the organizing for our office parties along with the actual middle managment work, and realized years later there was a bonus that was given and it was given to the older male colleague and not me. I did the work and he had the title. Dr. Plastic Picker knows my value, my father is an accountant, and I was furious. It wasn’t the amount but more of the symbolism and the deception by omission. I would have probably just donated it anyway. Now I am in middle management doing the work, with the title and the bonus (if there is one that particular year). I warn our young women from getting saddled with “fluff” tasks this early on in their career, and also to make sure they are farily compensated.
But since I left residency almost 15 years ago, leadership has changed. These symbolic acts are important and we now have a woman leader who feels staff wellness is part of leadership, and always organized the baby showers and the parties for more than a decade in her corner of the department. I have also risen high enough in my career and have a strong enough self of my own worth, that it actually helps create bonding between leadership and staff when we do these acts. So the odd thing is that I do these “fluff” tasks more now while higher on the leadership totem pole.
Anyway, the Holiday Party and the Nurses’ Week gifts take up time. Dr. Dear Friend and I have done most of the events the last few years. I think what I need to do is hardwire this into the leadership manifesto that I am working on! Yes! That will be revolutionary! This year we forwent the normal gift bags and ordered the nurses and staff embroidered outerwear with our office logo and their name.
Anyway, this project has been left unfinished really since December. We were going to use the money to redecorate the lunch room. The department bought us a new refrigerator after 15 years and we moved the lunch table. One of our newer doctors was going to do an HGTV type redesign with the money. But then COVID-19 hit and we are socially distancing, and honestly we are tranferring her to another office and there was not a lot of passion on her part to finish that project.
Then Nurses’ Week came along and we had a nice lunch celebration and photobooth, but we had the left over money from the holiday gift and usually we do something nice for the nurses. With physically distancing, we couldn’t do our usual celebration. I ended up spending a few hours putting together a slide show with music of staff images. While I was putting together the show, I was somewhat irritated because really – I’m a middle manager now! I’m still doing these tasks that I did as a new physician. The burden needs to be shared equally and I never see anyone volunteering! This is what came to my mind initially, the thoughts of the old me. But plastic picking and nature have truly given me an alternate perspective, and I realized that I can find joy in these tasks. So I finished my photo collage and enjoyed looking at the pictures. The next day there were technical glitches but overall the staff was so appreciative during our Zoom-like party for Nurses Day. It really warmed my heart because my job is to nurture collective identity and camraderie with our staff.
We also had them pick what kind of outerwear they wanted, as we (actually I) decided that it would be nice to finally gift our nurses embroidered outer wear with their names. Other clinics have done so, and they had made some envious comments. I listened! So ours are going to be much nicer! My sister has a fancy embroidery machine and she is a very talented craftswoman.
But again the execution of the project took a lot of time. Had to look into what kind of outerwear the nurses wanted. Looked up different styles. Had to have everyone to vote and put in their sizes. Had to ask the doctors if they wanted one too and let them know what it costs. Had to have them sign up with their names and sizes, and then double check the spelling. Had to talk to RN Plastic Picker about some logistical details (there are always policies we have to consider) about if part-time staff can have it, and what the criteria for listing peoples positions on the jackets is. And then spent a lot of Tuesday on and off really looking at the outerwear options on line because the material had to be thick enough to embroider on. Ordered them and double checked the sizes. Talk to my sister about how to get them delivered the time frame for her to do the embroidery. Called RN Plastic Picker one last time. And then I had to go back into my emails and VENMO and see who had paid me and realized that one doctor who never pays on time, did not pay and owes me $138. Calculate the balance for everything to make it fair for everyone. I used to just pay it, sometimes hundreds of dollars for the entire office because honestly I’m FISE and it sometimes not worth my time. But now that I am donating more to the environment and I realize this is not a good example for future leaders, I calculated out the cost for everyone. I sent out a very nice summary email with the cost, for most $38 to cover their portion of Nurses Week gift and for that one colleague $138. And then the project is done, and the other MDs are slowly paying me and the jackets should arrive at my sister’s house next week.
But I realized something last night. I did order the jackets with 20% recycled polyester content. I vaguely remember seeing that on Tuesday and am glad I didn’t order the other one that was from virgin polyester. Recycled polyester uses recycled water bottles as their material and takes 30% less energy to produce. Recycling PET also reduces landfill use, less soil contamination and less water pollution. https://www.the-sustainable-fashion-collective.com/2015/01/29/what-is-recycled-polyester/ As I was thinking about that last night, I began to get a warm green glow. We hardly buy any new clothes anymore, as I am trying “wear my values. ” But sometimes we do still buy new.
To cap it off I wrote a quick note to Target in their chat box to let them know that I appreciated the recylced content in their outerwear purchase, and to please encourage a return to reusable bags after COVID-19. So thus ends the drama over the Nurses’ Week Embroidered Outerwear project that is done.
If anyone from work is reading this, remember that these staff appreciation gestures are important. It used to be foisted on the women by older male colleagues without any professional and monetary recognition. But now there are women leaders in middle and upper management too and men have also changed, and we realize the value in these projects. We will officially list them as tasks in our leadership manifesto. But this will be the last year Dr. Plastic Picker will do it for a while, next year it is YOUR TURN.
And isn’t it curious that my younger sister who is an accomplished attorney, Yale graduate, military spouse who is now raising her kids alone while her husband in predeployment – is going to embroider all those jackets as a gift to us? She even made over 30 hand-sewn masks for our office? And I have to send multiple reminders to folks to just pay your money for a gift? One of the realities of having Dr. Plastic Picker as a middle manager is that I am often disappointed. I know our young physicians feel this at times from me. You try the hardest you can but you never feel like you quite measure up. Or maybe I don’t feel like you quite measure up? But now I realize that it’s not your fault and not my fault. I have changed how I think now, and I am no longer disappointed. I am trying to create leadership opportunities for you and to grow you as leaders. I do wish more people would do the dishes in the lunchroom. But I realize that I was previously disappointed in younger colleagues because I compared them to my younger sister. And my younger sister is awesome and accomplished.