Fun with writing: OptumCare Clinician Insights

Some years ago I was catching up with an old friend who has a prominent position at a managed care company. Intimating that I might want her to help me get a new job, she offered “sure, if you’re okay with coming to the dark side.” My answer? There is no dark side. In health care, every side has shown me good actors and bad. Pharma cures cancer, pharma robs us blind. Managed care denies our claims, managed care is the only thing holding the health system responsible for best practices. Nurses and doctors are angels, nurses and doctors are HOLDING ME PRISONER! (That last one is a direct patient quote).

Here’s the lesson: there are a lot of people spending their waking hours trying to make health care better and more accessible. Far more than the opposite. Since August I’ve been interviewing medical directors and working with people at OptumCare to develop a site called Clinician Insights where some of the best ideas under their large and growing umbrella can be shared. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Eye-opening and heartening to hear about the amount of good, science based, proven effective hard work these doctors and their teams undertake to improve the health care world for their patients.

In partnership with OptumCare providers, this resource library was designed to share insights, best practices, research and much more. The site went live in January and is in the building up phase. I’m proud to get to pick the brains of these leaders and write the articles that share their work.

Source: OptumCare Clinician Insights

Five painless ways to network and market your business (even if you’re a certified introvert)

Writers and scientists are not known for their outgoing natures. Personally, I have been criticized for my habit of bringing books to parties. Having these characteristics, I find the self-employed person’s mandate to “SELL YOURSELF!” a challenge. Fortunately, in the business of writing most work is found through networking, and with a small amount of effort even the book-carrying partygoers among us can build strong networks and grow stable, successful businesses.

When I’m closing out my writing day and I’ve yet to attempt any marketing or networking tasks, I look to achieve at least one of five small daily goals. Ultimately, these efforts are bite-sized enough for me to stomach even on my most introverted of days, and as weeks turn into months they add up to a respectable online presence and foundational marketing tool for a growing company:

  • Reach out to a pro in your field. This is easier than it sounds. A simple LinkedIn search with keyword specific to your field, you’ll likely find someone doing similar work who is farther along in the development of their business. In my experience people are remarkably helpful when asked a concrete question in a gracious manner.
  • Write a thank you note to a client or mentor. Some nice stationary is a treat to have, and handwritten words will make you memorable.
  • Post an article: either on a personal blog that posts to social media channels or LinkedIn, this will make you more visible to connections. Certainly there are days when you don’t have the juice to come up with original material. But, as we all are constantly reading in our research, keep future posts in mind and bookmark a timely or interesting article that your followers might appreciate. Add you 100-word personal take and re-post. You’ve added personal content and done the favor of passing on a piece of interest.
  • Make a new connection: Once you’ve got a presentable LinkedIn profile, the sky is the limit on who you can connect with—as long as, as “The Mighty Marketer” Lori de Milto advises, you personalize your LinkedIn connection requests. I have connected with professional heroes by adding in a true and complimentary detail such as “I read your book in nursing school. You describe bedside nurse life so well. I made my husband read it so he understands me after a hard shift. Thank you.”
  • Comment on the work of others: You’ve probably read the work of a peer in your daily research or perusing of the internet. If you have an opinion, or even better a reference to another article that adds to the discourse, jump in the pool and leave a comment.

One of these a day and you’ll be well on your way to a robust network gleaning insights into the health and medical writing business and finding new clients.

Writing as patient care

I remember a rough day, one of my last days in the hospital. I had a patient immobilized from the waist down and fresh out of surgery who could. Not. Stop. Peeing. In her amnesiac withdrawal from anesthesia, she was rapidly cycling through refusing to use a bedpan and demanding a bedpan. It was madness. An hour of back-wrenching linen changes and getting yelled at.

I can not tell you now how much I miss even those days. As a complete digression, I am made crazy by the challenges faced by nurses (and all clinicians) on the hospital floor, how it is everything but the patients that drives us mad. How many of us are forced to choose between the career we worked to hard for, our calling, and our own health and family. The American Journal of Nursing addresses the concern.

But hospital or no, I observe and I care and I’ll never not be a nurse.

Today I spent a minute in the Sylvia Plath exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. Visiting with my son for a family event I just happened to pass the small room of framed letters and photos. I dragged him in, promised a treat if he’d chill for just 5 minutes, and let him tap sounds out of the installation of bell jars while I read.

In her letter, pinned just below a smiling photograph of Plath taken 6 months prior with her two very young children, I saw the lines that made it clear why a week from that day she would be dead by suicide.

She was getting over a terrible flu. After much distress, she had left her husband with babies in tow. Fled the comfort of their country home to a flat in London. It was the first week of godforsaken February. The longest, darkest, depressionest month.

February 4, 1963
“Everything has blown and bubbled and warped and split—accentuated by the light and heat suddenly going off for hours at unannounced intervals, frozen pipes, people getting drinking water in buckets and such stuff–that I am in a limbo between the old world and the very uncertain and rather grim new.”

So here is where writing can be patient care. Always be assessing, always be educating. You can do it with a dead mid-century poet if it makes a piece of writing.

Plath is in a volatile state, the responsibilities of motherhood on her shoulders, just separated from the comfort and support of friends and familiar places. The pipe freezing signals her loss of control. Her limbo between old and uncertain and grim? An expression of hopelessness.

It’s no revelation that Sylvia Plath was depressed a few days before her suicide. But by seeing her as not an hysterical artist inclined to shuffle off this mortal coil at a moment’s notice, and instead as a person, mother, a sufferer of a common condition, she is a

I recognize her words as if they were my own read back to me. Because they were my own, not long ago. The remark “I long to have somebody really play with and love the babies…They are so beautiful and dear and will in effect have no father.” This kind of loneliness, where you seek for someone to share love for your precious child, is crushing. And in the worst of depression: losing the ability to play with you babies, lacking energy, lacking interest. Having failed to mother, life’s most important task, why keep fighting? For me, someone noticed. And they got me help.

Hearing words like those of Sylvia Plath in her last days come from the mouths of friends and family should spur action. Recognize a mental health crisis. Help us take care of each other better. Be there at the bedside.

And as a writer, considering anyone who reads this my beloved patient, now you know. I’ve told a story that educates you. Listen for that tenor of in the speech of the people you care about. And to recognize it in yourself. Like a good nurse, assess, then act.

Also, why isn’t February Mental Health Awareness month? It is rough out there, folks. Take care of each other.