I work as a secretary at a teaching hospital. Prior to my job here, I was a paralegal and a legal secretary. Throughout the years, my job has become more and more difficult. I probably don’t mean this in the way you think I mean it.
I am not saying that the work I do has become more difficult; with experience, the tasks themselves become easier and easier as time passes because I become more efficient at them. What I mean is that it becomes increasingly difficult to be a good secretary because of the many restrictions that are placed on us at our workplace.
As an example, in the past, when one of my bosses would need me to obtain some information for them, it was a simple matter of picking up the phone and calling the person from whom I needed to obtain the information. I would say, “This is S____, calling from So-and-So’s office. Ms. So-and-So has asked me to get XX information from you.” That person would then give me the information my boss had requested.
Now, however, nine times out of ten when I call, I’m told, “I’m sorry. I can’t give you that information. Ms. So-and-So will need to call us personally to obtain that information.”
On the surface, I know that what I’m saying doesn’t seem like a big deal. Ok, so Ms. So-and-So will just have to pick up the phone and call herself.
One of the things I’ve always told my bosses over the years is this: You are a lawyer (or doctor), I’m your secretary. Your job is to serve your clients (or patients), my job is to serve you. Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s my job. However, now I find myself having to tell my bosses, “I’m sorry. You’ll have to sweat the small stuff now because I’m no longer allowed to do so.”
In the medical field, I work for busy doctors, and working in a teaching hospital, the doctors for whom I work are not only busy with patient care and surgery, but also with teaching medical students, residents, and fellows. It might seem a simple matter for them to pick up the phone and request a piece of information themselves, but it really isn’t. Most of the time, it’s not a five-minute phone call; it’s sitting on hold for 45 minutes.
I think it’s ironic actually, this incredible push for privacy, especially in light of the fact that very little, if anything, these days is actually private. If you watch the news, it seems that the government has access to almost every little detail of our lives, so to me, being told “I’m sorry, you’ll have to have your boss call us herself for that information” is nothing more than a sense of false security. Big Brother, after all, still knows all. Right?
To be perfectly honest, with my former boss (she left here last Spring, but I worked with her for seven years), I could have called right back and told them I was her, could have answered any question they threw at me to “prove” my identity. Hell, I knew (and still know) her SS#, date and place of birth, parents’ names, first pet’s name, children’s names (and dates/places of birth), husband’s name (and date/place of birth and SS#), credit card numbers–I know more about her off the top of my head than she herself probably keeps in her own head lol–the only things keeping me from doing that were my integrity and my honesty…and if she’d told me to do it, I would have done it. Because that is, after all, what a secretary USED to be able to do.