Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Learning About Home Care

The next day Ann didn't waste any time putting me on the staffing desk with the other two coordinators.  I got a tour of the client intake books.   My first job was to take incoming calls, introduce myself to clients and pass the call to one of the two ladies.  That went on for a while and then I was told to start calling the employees and get their availability.  This was a process that was on going as we had to know who was available when a client called for help.  At the end of the day we had to provide our night time coordinator, who worked in the office until 11 pm and then handled the calls from home over night, a list of who was available for that night and early the next morning. I learned later that this duty was roundly disliked by everyone and therefore was something I was going to have to be continuously monitoring.

Just after lunch time I got a call from my real estate agent who had finally gained access to the last house Jane and I saw from her car.  I asked Ann if I could go with her to see the place and of course she agreed.  She picked me up and we got on the loop headed to a subdivision called Camelot!  The whole concept of  highways called loops was something new to me.  Nonetheless, there were inner and outer loops to get you around the city.  Camelot was a relatively new subdivision, especially considering our last home was in St. Louis and probably built during the 1920's.  The place was on a cul de sac, two stories with a nice fenced back yard and a two car garage.  The front door opened to a center hall stairway with a living room to the left and a dining room to your right.  As you walked down the hall you ended up in the family room, which was adjacent to an eat in kitchen.  On the  other end of the family room was the master bed and bath.  Upstairs had three more bedrooms and a Jack and Jill bathroom.  There was also a large walk in closet.  Really nice!
I was very excited and pressed Carolyn about price.  She said the house had been on the market for some time and their might be room for negotiating the price down from the asking price of $70,000.  We headed back to her office to call Jane and talk about finances.  I sensed that this would become our new home!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting To Know My Mentor

As my first day came to a close, Ann asked if I would like to join her for dinner down on the Riverwalk.  I agreed and we walked down the street until we found a stairway that would take us down to the river.  Ann was gushing over how much she loved being in San Antonio and how much she loved the culture and people there.  We strolled along the river watching the gondalas float by until we reached her favorite restaurant.  I was looking forward to having a drink and relaxing a bit after my first day on the job.  She found a table with a great view of the crowds roaming through the area, unfortunately it was outside and the temperature was in the 90's not to mention the high humidity!  The waiter came over and Ann ordered a Miller heavy which I found amusing!  She explained at her stage in life she found no reason to not enjoy the real thing!

She asked me about our search for a house and I told her I was meeting with our real estate agent the next day.  Ann said that she wanted me to take as much time as I needed to get that off my agenda so I could be ready to move as soon as possible.  She changed the subject to the employees in the office and I got her insight into their personalities.  She warned me about Sue, who had been there for a number of years and seemed to be at the center of any unhappiness that cropped up.  The bookkeeper Mary and one of the other coordinators, Christina, were sisters and came from a very strong Hispanic family.  She considered both of them to be great employees, very reliable.  The other two coordinators were Pat and Jackie seemed  to meet her approval, Pat worked part time and Jackie had epilepsy, supposedly controlled by medication.

We both ordered another beer and our dinner, while we waited for the food she revealed that she had breast cancer and was on an experimental oral medication.  According to her there were a small group of women around the country who had been selected to try this experimental treatment.  She had already had surgery and chemotherapy but it had returned so she decided to try this new therapy.  To that point her doctor seemed pleased and she was feeling great.  I was amazed by her strength and her overall positive attitude.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My First Day In The Home Care Industry!

I went back to the hotel, combed my hair and tried to calm my nerves before heading to the office.  As I walked down the street I was taken by how tall I was compared to my Hispanic counterparts.  It didn't take long to find the office as it was on the ground floor on the corner of a tall office building.  It must have originally been a retail space since all of the exterior walls were floor to ceiling glass.  I entered and saw my mentor Ann sitting at a desk in the corner of this small space.  Directly behind her was a small narrow room with a desk, four drawer filing cabinet and a young lady working on payroll.  Ann greeted me and then introduced me to Maria, the bookkeeper, and two other ladies who sat on the other side of this 400 square foot space at a round table with that lazysusan type thing in the center of the desk.  Lou and Jackie were the staffing coordinators who worked days, later I would meet Lupe who handled the phones in the evening. They all seemed quite friendly and obviously loved Ann.

Ann and I went down to the basement of the building where there were bathrooms and a small conference room.  We sat down at the table and she explained what my orientation and training would be like.  The goal was for her, her son-in-law, Larry and his wife Sharon to feel confident that I could handle the business at the end of this two week period.  They would rotate in and out based on what part of the business I was being trained.  Her job was to train me on the coordinators desk and who the scheduling system worked.  Larry would train me on the financial tasks and Sharon would train me on marketing.

With that explained we headed back upstairs and I sat down at the coordinators table was handed a tall book from that thing in the middle of the desk and learned that it was called a wheel.  The books were full of nurses with a card on top outlining what they were capable of doing, a picture and their personal information.  The bottom card was a box like calendar with markings in the boxes.  The markings indicated whether the employee was available and for what shift.  If a line was drawn through the box it meant they were not available on that day.  The coordinators would call the employees weekly to obtain their availability and to offer them shifts that were open.  My first job was to listen to Lou and Jackie as they made calls and then they  told me to start calling!  Of course I had to explain I was the new Administrator, which sometimes seemed to surprise whoever I was calling, I guess my predecessor didn't talk much to the field staff.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Big Change!

It was almost mind boggling when we considered all that had to be accomplished over the next few weeks.  Nursefinders offered us a trip to San Antonio, to check out the area and start the search for a new home.  We were only allowed to hold on to the profit from our first home for eighteen months before we would have to pay taxes on it, so we didn't have the luxury of moving to Texas and renting until we became familiar with the city. In addition I had a lot to learn about running a nursing agency.

We contacted Carolyn, the real estate agent I talked to in San Antonio and she began lining up some houses for us to look at during our three day stay in town.  On the day we arrived we got off the plane and felt like we were hit with a wet wool blanket.  It was not only hot but very humid, a bit worse than we experienced in St.Louis.  We rented a car and found our way to a motel in the city.  Once we got settled, Carolyn came by and took us on a grand tour trying to familiarize us with our new city.  I remember how quaint the down town area was and we were  fascinated with the Riverwalk, which is below the street level and lined with shops, restaurants and hotels.   It had a European look to it and really caught our attention. After getting something to eat we headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest.

The next day we got an early start looking at the homes Carolyn thought might interest us but it became evident that being so unfamiliar with the area Jane and I were really confused.  Maggie was going to be starting school in a few years so locating in a district that had a reputation of excellence meant a lot to us.  Around and around we went and the more we saw the less we knew.  Finally calling it quits in the late afternoon.  Carolyn decided that the next day we would concentrate on an area northeast of the city, it was a relatively new community and the elementary school was in the subdivision.  We only had one day left so we wanted to make the most of it.

It turned out the subdivision called Camelot, was closer in style to what we had experienced growing up and in St.Louis or Denver.  We saw several single story homes that would have worked and then a two story four bedroom house on a culdesac not far from the elementary school that intrigued us.  Carolyn unsucessfully tried to contact the listing agent but we went back to her office to discuss our approach.  Jane and Maggie were heading back to Denver the next morning and I was going to meet Ann Rains at the hotel and begin my orientation.  Carolyn promised to pursue the listing agent and contact me at my motel or the office.

The next day, feeling frustrated, I packed up the girls and I got them to the airport by 8 am.  Then I followed my directions to the office, which as it turned out was two blocks from the hotel in which we were staying.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can A Jersey Boy & An Iowa Girl Adapt To TEXAS?

Jane was quite surprised to see my smiling face come through door after turning down the job in San Francisco. When I told her that Ann understood our concern about the expense of west coast living and made a call to try and get a higher salary but ended up finding another administrators job, this time in San Antonio!  I went on to tell her everything Ann said about how wonderful the city was, in fact that it was her favorite town!  Jane's reaction was predictable, she grabbed the car keys and headed to the library!

She wasn't gone long but returned with an arm full of books and magazines. As we started going through them it became apparent that San Antonio had a lot to offer.  The pictures of the Riverwalk were beautiful and it looked like an older city with a lot of character.  She and I liked the fact that the climate was similar to St.Louis but without the bitter cold winters.  We saw ads for real estate agencies so I made a few calls.  One of them resulted in me getting hooked up with Carolyn, a friendly young woman who was anxious to help us.  She asked how much we had to put down and what size home we wanted.  I gave her a basic idea of our situation and we agreed that she should look through the agencies listing and get back to me later.

A couple of hours passed and Carolyn called back with what sounded like good news to us!  Properties seemed very reasonable.. Jane wanted to know if the houses had basements there and Carolyn said that due to the kind of soil in south Texas having a basement would be very unlikely;  Jane was concerned because she knew that Texas had tornadoes and being from Iowa she knew how important basements were.  Carolyn assured us that the tornadoes we had heard about were way north of San Antonio.    I told her that as I learned more about when we would be moving I would give her a call and she could line up some properties for us.

We went out to dinner that night to celebrate the end of the long transition to gainful employment!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Think I Have A Mentor!

I arrived at the office before Ann Rains and was offered a cup of coffee by the young lady, who's title was  Coordinator,  but being as nervous as I was, I asked for water!  I hadn't called Ann the night before so I knew she would be surprised to see me sitting there.  A few minutes past and she bounced through the door with a surprised look on her face.  "Well, Tom, I wasn't expecting to see you today. Come back to my office."  Once she got settled and she got herself a cup of coffee, I began explaining the situation we were in.  I told her how interested I was in learning the business but after making a few calls to real estate agents in the Bay area we had come to the conclusion that we just couldn't afford to move there. She asked me if there were any other concerns and I said that even with the profit we had from our home in St. Louis, I couldn't support the family in an expensive area like that on the $25,000 salary that came with the job.  She looked at me and smiled, admitting it was an expensive are to live.  With that she picked up the phone and called her son-in-law who was in Dallas.  She said "Look, I've found a great candidate for the job in San Francisco but he's checked into the cost of living out there and can't take the job at the salary we are offering."  She listened for a minute or so and then said, "Let me check into that and I'll call you back."                                      

Ann looked at me and smiled, she said, "I just found out about another opening.  How would you feel about moving to San Antonio, Texas!"  She explained the cost of living was much lower and that it happened to be her favorite city and wanted to know if I had been there.  After explaining that I hadn't she took me on a verbal tour of the city listing all the reasons she loved it there.  I must have looked relieved because she smiled and told me to head on home and kick it around with my wife.  She asked if I could get back to her by the end of the day because she was only going to be in town for another day and if I accepted the job she wanted to spend some time with me.  I was so grateful, I wanted to hug her, but instead promised I would call later that day.

I couldn't get over the fact that I found such a warm, friendly person, who really wanted me to join her company.  I felt I had a mentor and wanted to take the job, although I had no idea what it would be like to live in Texas, and couldn't imagine what Jane would say.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finally The Sun Is UP!

I was actually surprised how well I slept and woke up looking forward to my appointment with Ann Rains.  I was glad we had spoken last night because from the conversation I could tell she was a sincere woman.  It also didn't hurt to learn that one of her daughters was a former teacher and now worked for Nursefinders.

I arrived thirty minutes early which insured that I wouldn't be late but unfortunately left me time to sit in my car with nothing to do but anticipate my interview.  Nonetheless, I found the office, which was in a high rise building on Broadway.  A pleasant looking place and a very professional looking young woman was sitting at a round desk which had what looked like a lazysusan in the middle of it.  There were slots in this thing with tall books in each of them.  I told her who I was and that I had a meeting with Ann Rains.  She smiled and asked me to take a seat and then she disappeared down a hallway to tell Ann I had arrived.  A few minutes passed and a short portly looking woman walked over and introduced herself as Ann Rains.  She had a wonderful smile and reminded me of my Grandmother with her white hair and soft voice.  She invited me to follow her to her office, a small but well furnished space.

I handed her my resume which she politely reviewed noting that I had been raised in New Jersey and lived in St. Louis for a number of years.  She asked about my family and seemed interested in the fact that my Father was the Vice President of Pan American Airlines before he died in 1967., and that Jane and I had a one year old daughter.  I asked her all of the appropriate questions about Nursefinders and was impressed to find out that it was Ann and her son in law who started the company.  He, had previously owned Medical Personnel Pool franchises in Dallas and Fort Worth.  He and Ann's daughter,the former teacher, hadn't been able to go on vacation for some years while they built their franchises.  As it turned out, Ann was the first woman executive with Illinois Bell Telephone, and had quite a bit of experience as a manager in a huge corporation.  She went on to say that she and her husband volunteered to run Larry's franchises while he took his family on vacation for a couple of weeks.  While tending to their business Ann started to analyze the operation and came up with a number of ways to improve what they were doing.  When the family returned Ann called a   meeting and proposed that they form a partnership and open their own company.  It was a complicated plan because Larry had to sell his franchises and then comply with Personnel Pools non-compete contract.  They owned several Nursefinders operations and then sold franchises for others around the country.

I was very impressed with what they had accomplished.  Generally their business was to provide temporary nurses to hospitals,  nursing homes and to those trying to maintain their independence at home.  I certainly had a lot to learn but the concept captured my imagination.  She mentioned that they were looking for an Administrator for their San Francisco branch and wondered if we would be interested in relocating.  I told her that I would discuss it with Jane and let her know the next day.  She expressed confidence that I would do a great job and then asked if I knew much about San Francisco?  I told her I hadn't been there but heard it was a beautiful city.  Then she mentioned something about the population and whether either of us would be bothered by the different types of people who lived there!  I told her we were not afraid or bothered by gay people and that wouldn't be part of our consideration. With that, we ended our meeting and I thanked her for the opportunity.

I could barely contain myself and raced home to share the news with Jane!  Perhaps our long period of unemployment was about to come to an end!