Old School, New School: The big decision looms

Old School, New School: The big decision looms

When the threat of a corporation buying the practice from Dr. Codger is impending, will Dr. Greenskin fish or cut bait?
Aug 01, 2018

Illustration by Ryan OstranderEditors’ note: Thankfully, our A-team of hackers went undetected! Neither of our good doctors have any idea that they’ve been exposed, so we can continue observing the usual antics at the hospital. No idea what we’re talking about? In the mood for some scandalous juicy details? Check out the last episode of OSNS here.

With Mrs. Actright still on her much-needed vacation, the hectic summer is finally showing signs of winding down. Strangely enough, nobody seems to actually miss having the toxic Mrs. Actright in the clinic with them. In fact, many of the team members seem to be more relaxed and enjoying their day-to-day work.

Could the lead technician’s absence actually be a good thing? No time to reflect on that at the moment—today there are some visitors in the hospital. Dr. Codger is all ready to meet them in a brand-new pair of Dockers and a tie. The team is a little mystified since Dr. Codger usually offers at least a heads-up when he has something important going on.

A trio of sharply dressed, good-looking young people enter the hospital as if they owned it. All smiles and praise, they’re quick to greet every team member and appear genuinely interested in everything.

The team is busy with their tasks, of course, so they catch only snippets of Dr. Codger’s remarks as he gives a tour of the hospital and explains the decisions and modifications he's made over the course of his illustrious career. The visitors can be heard complimenting the old doc at every turn.

Dr. Greenskin isn’t afforded an introduction, however. While she’s busy counting pills to fill a prescription, Dr. Codger gives her a wink and a smile as the four walk right by her and into the break room. This is when Greenskin knows something is terribly wrong: Before the door closes, she’s horrified to see that the break room has been ... cleaned!

She’s never seen things so tidy in there, with ample room for Codger and his visitors to sit at the small round table and settle in for some chitchat. A nice neat stack of papers waiting on the table is yet another sign that there’s nothing ordinary about this visit.

Rumors start flying around the hospital as to what’s going on in that break room. Dr. Greenskin fears the inevitable, and once the three visitors leave, she’s quick to corner Dr. Codger.

“So, you think you’re going to make a deal with those guys?” she asks.

Codger is cool and calm with his reply. “It’s very early, Dr. Greenskin,” he says. “But it’s pretty tempting. They’re happy with the hospital’s performance, and I think they would take good care of the staff. We still need to pin down some figures and terms, but it could really work out well for everyone.”

He pauses, then adds, “It’s been so long since you’ve shown any interest in buying me out, I figured you’d given up on the idea.”

Greenskin does her best to squelch her defensiveness, although she can’t help but feel betrayed. “We’ve been so busy, and there’s been a bit of drama this past year. I guess I was waiting for you to bring it up again. I think about what it would be like to be a practice owner, but I still don’t know how wise it would be, given my situation.”

Now it’s her turn to pause before adding, “On the other hand, I think you need to consider how well a large corporation is going to look after your community and your legacy.”

Codger, looking to challenge his associate, replies, “At your stage in the game, you need to be bold! The longer you spend overanalyzing and overcalculating, the faster this world is going to run you over. I want to retire, and I think I can let go of this place. If I don’t see any real initiative or motivation from you to take my place, then a corporate buyout may be the least painful way for me to move on.”

Both vets appear a little melancholy as Codger continues, “I understand the position you’re in, Greenskin. I’m not sure how I would have dealt with all of that student debt myself. You kids already have quite a burden when you’re thinking about taking on more loans to buy a business. That’s not your fault—but it doesn’t make my task of selling any easier. I just think you need to decide for yourself whether you really want this and what you’re willing to do to get it.”

Greenskin remains pensive. “I appreciate your understanding,” she says. “You’re right—I need to decide if I’m going to make the necessary sacrifices to go down that road. Buying the practice seems to be such an ‘all or nothing’ proposition, unlike any decision I’ve ever—”

Codger cuts her off. “Being an owner is hard,” he says. “I’ll admit that I’ve regretted it a few times. But there are going to be rough patches no matter what you do in life. In the grand scheme, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is your chance to make something that’s yours. A hospital that reflects your personal values and practice style. There’s not an employer out there, not even me, who’s ever going to give you that.”

That evening, our conflicted Dr. Greenskin is introspective to the point of losing interest in the final season of Portlandia. Her half-eaten Lean Cuisine sits, rejected, on the coffee table. She feels herself barreling toward the crossroad she’s been mostly trying to ignore for the past few years. One path promises relative security, relative work-life balance—and someone else making all the decisions.

The other path carries the certainty of 24/7 stress, myriad demands from all kinds of interested parties, liability questions, very little certainty—and a moderately better chance at a healthier financial future, along with the satisfaction of being the boss.

When the familiar Backstreet Boys alarm tone sounds on her phone, Greenskin wakes to find she has fallen asleep on the couch again—morning has come, and it’s almost time to head in to work. Still deliberative, she takes a moment to appreciate how far she’s come and remind herself that she has options.

I made the right career choice, she thinks to herself. Now I need to decide where to take it.

With a defiant smile, she hops off the couch to get ready for another busy day.

Will Codger’s prodding be enough motivation, or will Greenskin find contentment in her role as employee? Where is this thing heading? Find out next time in Old School, New School.    

Dr. Jeremy Campfield lives near Sacramento with his family, including an aging mini Aussie and an obstreperous pitbull mix that some mistake for a chocolate Lab (to the delight of her owners). When the family is not getting their hands dirty in the garden, Dr. Campfield indulges in his love for the outdoors with hiking, kitesurfing and climbing aboard any two-wheeled contraption. Please remember: Watch for cyclists, share the road, and pass them like you love them!