by Patrick Marier CMRP
Sr. Consultant, Supply Chain Services

My vice president recently asked our team to think about our “why” as it relates to our career in the health care supply chain. While I love the work I do, I realized I had never really thought about why I continue in this field. After a bit of soul searching, I was able to determine what keeps me in health care.

My why

The year was 1991 and I was had been working in material management for about two years. I was working in a storeroom at a hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was October 31; yes, Halloween. There was a forecast for a cold rain developing by mid-day that would continue throughout the evening with a chance of rain turning to snow.

The hospital had a deep history in the Twin Cities and has been in existence for more than 150 years. It had an even greater history to me. Both my parents worked at the hospital. And even though they both retired by the time I started working there, I had many memories as a kid going to work with them on occasion.

When I arrived to work that afternoon, the rain had already turned to snow. As the day progressed, the forecasts kept changing and the snow was piling up. By 10 p.m., both people scheduled to work that night called to say they wouldn’t be able to make it in.

I hadn’t been by a window for a while to see what it looked like outside, so I ventured up to the lobby to look. It looked like a full-on January blizzard! Coming back into the storeroom, my manager was asking people if anyone could stay for the overnight shift. Without delay, I offered to stay.

The hospital was a 350-bed acute care facility with an adjoining 100-bed children’s hospital, covering two city blocks. We were also a 24/7 storeroom that had never closed…for any reason. As everyone shuffled out that night, it became eerily quiet in the storeroom as I was the only one there. It started out relatively quiet, fielding phone calls and responding to the pager (for any millennials reading this, a pager was a device worn proudly on your belt that would buzz and beep, prompting you to look at the ½” X 2” screen to see who you were supposed to call). My first indicator that this was going to be an exhausting eight hours was getting an order for an egg crate mattress to a pediatric unit at the furthest end of the children’s hospital.

By the next morning, I was exhausted. Thankfully, calls for products had slowed, giving my sore feet a break. I was looking forward to heading home soon for my day off. The end was in sight; the cavalry would be on their way…or so I thought.

One by one the day crew called to say they couldn’t make it in. No one was coming in. I felt dejected when I shared the news with my manager. I had worked 16 hours, walked miles throughout the hospital and did everything I could. My manager sounded equally dejected as he explained that in his 20+ years at the hospital, the storeroom had never been closed. I found I couldn’t leave.

Throughout the day, calls for products began to pick up. By 2:30 that afternoon two people made it in to relieve me and I couldn’t have been happier. After a 24-hour shift, I was finally on my way home!

When I arrived at work the following Tuesday, I was immediately greeted by my manager. He was incredible to work for and I credit him with much of my success. I joined him in his office where he thanked me and shared how grateful he was. A few minutes later, the CEO walked into Kurt’s office and Kurt introduced me. He handed me a mug and I asked what I thought about it. I kind of smirked and said, “I like it”. He said, “This is the first one and I’m giving it to you. Kurt told me all about your efforts and I want to say how grateful and thankful I and the entire hospital are to you.” I smiled shook his hand and thanked him

Nearly 30 years later I realized that this event was a defining moment for me in my career. It’s my “why.” What’s yours?

About the author: In his role as a Senior Consultant, Patrick Marier provides Vizient members with guidance, mentoring and leadership in transforming their supply chain operations to leading practice performance levels; across supply chain operational functions (e.g. item master, contracting, strategic sourcing, value analysis and procurement) and supply chain technology (e.g. item master and contract software and procurement MMIS/ERP systems).

Published: October 27, 2021