Thursday, 11 October 2007


We are an extremely fortunate practice when it comes to our practice manager. Myrtle does so many things that I cannot keep track of them all. She is practical, supportive, cunning, wise and kind; the serpent and the dove in one person. As well as looking after the partners and our staff she supports several other health service staff locally and many of our patients as well. Troublesome, worried or upset punters are frequently soothed by sharing a fag with Myrtle outside the surgery.

Today she warned me that Frank would be coming in to see me later on. Frank used to work in the NHS many years ago, but the NHS and the world have changed greatly since then. Frank was devoted to his partner who died last year, leaving him devastated. Myrtle took him under her wing and has provided support that was so discreet that I knew nothing about it. Today would have been his partner's birthday and he was in a tizz. He rang Myrtle at 6.30am and she called in to see him on her way to work. By the time he came to see me there was little left to do except listen to the story again, so she was helping me as well as him.

If you were going to be po-faced about it, you might criticise her for being partisan. Why does she support some patients but not others? To which I can think of two good replies. First, I trust Myrtle's ability to sniff out the people who need her support. And secondly it is a labour of love, and you can't legislate for that.

We almost didn't offer her an interview for the job! When we needed a new practice manager we took advice, and learned that the thing to do was to think of suitable criteria and then grade the applications we received accordingly. The top scorers should then be offered interviews. Myrtle came nowhere, because she hadn't applied for a job in years. But what she did do was call round and speak to one of the partners. That partner pig-headedly insisted that we interview Myrtle, despite my protestations that it was the Wrong Thing To Do. Of course, at interview it quickly became apparent that the top scorers were major disasters who knew how to write job applications, whereas Myrtle was clearly the best person for the job. We didn't know at the time just how good she would turn out to be. The practice was in crisis when we took her on. It is now much stronger, and a far more pleasant place for everyone to work in. Thank you, Myrtle.


Elaine said...

A very interesting post Dr Brown. It made me think of all the follies of MTAS, where it was the paperwork which was being "interviewed" rather han the candidate.

Myrtle sounds wondeerful.

A. said...

I have seen the results of a person with the most winderful qualifications but the wrong personality being employed. Not a pretty sight. Besides I once was given a job in circumstances very similar to Myrtle's, so obviously I think it's A Good Thing to do.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute!

Every practice should have a 'Myrtle' - she sounds like a real treasure.

Dr Andrew Brown said...

Elaine's analogy is extremely apt. If we had followed what the experts had told us to do we would have made a dreadful mistake.

Yes, Myrtle is a treasure. And we're keeping her!

Calavera said...

Aww, what a lovely post. It's so good that you guys gave her the benefit of the doubt and just let her apply and interview.

Dr Andrew Brown said...

Cal: Good? It was a miracle!