When you’re Marie Yarborough, a hospital administrator at the Mount Sinai Surgery Center, running around like your head’s cut off does not mean you’re crazy. It means you’re doing your job. Yarborough, 46, started her career as a dental assistant. She moved to the front of the office and eventually to business school. After graduating, she threw herself into starting a surgery center from scratch. “There was nothing but a cement slab,” she recalls. Along the way Yarborough has run marathons and won trail races, and recently, she spoke with Worksteady about how her life in the hospital feels like an extension of her athletic self, why sometimes you’ll find her cleaning gurneys in the operating room, and the one thing she would change about healthcare.
ST: What does a hospital administrator do exactly?
MY: There’s so much that goes into keeping up with all the laws and regulations. That’s a major part of being an administrator: making sure you’re compliant. I also do the staffing, a bit of marketing, and managing employees. A lot of various tasks really. We also give hospital privileges to physicians. So in order to do that you have to thoroughly investigate a physician and go through their background.
ST: So, it’s like a criminal background check but for doctors?
MY: Yes pretty much. I check the federal registries to see if there are any marks or claims against them. Then you have to verify their schooling, their fellowships, internships – you have to verify evvvvverything.
ST: Because otherwise the surgery center is on the hook?
ST: Let’s backtrack for a minute. How did the woman who started out working in the back of a dental office get to managing the Mount Sinai Surgery Center?
MY: I eventually moved up front and started managing all the appointments, and billing, and insurance and I figured there’s got to be something more so I went back to school. I got my degree in business and the first job I landed out of that was managing the Stockton surgery center. There was nothing there but a cement slab and they said, “Okay make this a surgery center.” So the director of nursing at the time and I, we sat there in two little cubicle desks and we did everything. We opened the bank account, ordered the equipment…We had some help of course - but it was literally starting from the ground up. So after they gave me that surgery center they gave me another one. Both eventually sold, and I came down to LA.
ST: Take me through your typical day.
MY: I live about 4 miles away so it’s just a small commute. I get to work and check my email then I walk around the facility and check on things to. Once I’m back at my desk I answer more emails and take care of business. Then the patients start checking in so I’m running back and forth, checking in to see everyone has what they need at which time I might hear, “Hey Marie we’re out of sodium nitrate!” So I’ll go put an order in for sodium nitrate from Dr. So and So. It’s constant.
ST: When do you leave?
MY: (Laughs). It depends – I’ll work a 14 hour day if I have to. Patients might have to stay late or are waiting for a ride home …or sometimes if it’s been a really busy day, I might need to just sit here in peace and quiet and work.
ST: So can you squeeze any more into your day? Like going for a jog for instance?
MY: I actually used to be a runner and a swimmer. I would a swim couple of miles before work and run on the weekends. I used to get up at 4:30 am.
ST: Wow that’s early. Were you training for a race?
MY: I’m always training. I did a lot of half marathons, 5Ks, 10Ks. You start running as a hobby and then you start racing and then that gets you into thinking, “Okay how fast can I race?” and after that, you start asking what’s next. So I started trail running and then winning trail runs. When I got bored with running I started swimming and then of course, I started competing in swim races. But then I got cancer so I had to stop everything.
ST: And how does Marie the athlete translate into Marie the hospital administrator?
MY: I’m a very hard worker just as much as I am a hard runner and swimmer. I’ll work the 14 hour days if I have to – it’s just who I am I guess.
ST: What’s the most surprising aspect about your job – something people don’t often realize?
MY: Well some administrators are more focused on the business side of things, some are more focused on the clinical aspect, but I’m more operational. So if I have to, I’ll change the gurneys and if I have to go clean the ORs (operating rooms), then I will. I’m never just behind the desk. You do it because you have to. I can’t say it’s not my job because we’re all here in this together.
ST: What keeps you motivated?
MY: The patients, definitely. The relationships I’ve developed here. There’s the satisfaction I get when I help someone out – and I know that they fully appreciate what I do for them – that’s always a motivation
ST: What’s a moment you’re most proud of career-wise?
MY: I just like growth so developing a surgery center from the ground up was such a big high. Opening up the center was my moment.
ST: What don’t you like about your job?
MY: What I like most are patient interactions so it’s tough when I have to go through the billing process. You know it’s costly to have a surgery – extremely costly - so I can understand their frustrations.
ST: So you don’t like the billing of patients?
MY: I don’t like overly billing patients…
ST: If you could change one thing about healthcare, what would it be?
MY: I think I would probably go back to when universal healthcare was on the table. I think other countries have it right. If you only knew what happens behind the scenes with physicians fighting over a case because it’s not in network or out of network. You know it’s stupid. We should all be treated equally in that respect. People in my industry would probably disagree because it’s probably going to hit them in their pocketbooks but I think that as a person I would like that.
With Sarah Tory of Hippo Reads