E-Vent-Picking Up The Pieces

Edition: November 2001 - Vol 9 Number 11
Article#: 1098
Author: Repertoire

This month's E-Vent is a testimonial to the spirit of the American people, particularly those in the medical products industry. As you read what Dail-E News readers wrote in response to our questions about Sept. 11, you'll note – as we did – their strength in the face of tragedy. You'll find a focus on values. You'll see the portrait of a people who are not consumed with bitterness and spite, but rather, with resolution and pride. And you'll see that amidst heart-breaking sorrow lies a sense of hope.

Here are the questions we posed to Dail-E News readers:

The events of Sept. 11 shocked the world. Yet, those in health care – not only caregivers, but sales reps too – had little or no time to rest. Chances are, you were out there making calls that Tuesday, your radio going constantly in the car or your office. It was the toughest of times in which to work. Please take a few moments to answer the questions below and reply back to us..

1.In the face of the events of Sept. 11 and afterward, were you able to stay ''up,'' that is, positive? If so, how?

2.How did you stay focused on the job at hand – selling medical supplies/equipment (or, in the case of hospital materials managers, keeping clinicians equipped with whatever they need)?

3.Finally, did you learn anything about how you (or people in general) cope with adversity? If so, what was it?

Distributors Respond

How did you stay focused? For a few days it was difficult to focus, but we couldn't afford not to, as our customers were stocking up on supplies and we needed to get what they needed.

What did you learn? Lots of prayer.

How did you stay focused? I stayed focused by moving through my routine as best as I could, even if I was terribly distracted. It was the staff in the accounts I visited that had me concerned. It seemed as though the majority…were literally not even aware of my presence in their office. They seemed dazed….None of my accounts placed any orders after Tuesday of that week.

What did you learn? I learned much about peoples' coping skills, as well as my own. The biggest thing I learned was that the people you care about and who care about you are by far the most important treasure we all have...Equally as significant for me was the perspective I gained. Suddenly the small things were small again.

How did you stay positive? One rep I talked to that morning and [to whom I] mentioned in passing that it was hard to be upbeat during a time like this, said, ''You just have to do your job.'' I am glad I didn't listen. I decided that part of my job is to listen to the customer, and if the needs of the customer were to discuss the events of the day, that's what I did. All my calls on this day were ''cold calls'' and I learned more about my prospects than I could with a normal call.

What did you learn? When a bone breaks, the MD says to wait for what is sometimes called the ''sticky'' stage, and the mending will soon follow. I noticed a lot of people feeling broken, but witnessed within hours a lot of the sticky stuff. People seemed united in anger and fear, patriotism and generosity, forgiveness and spirituality…Better than that, I think I met some very caring and sincere individuals whom I might not have been able to know had I not had the title of ''sales rep.''

What did you learn? I hope this country does NOT want to return to the ''way things were.'' We can't afford to. We have risen together above the things that used to divide and shame us all. There are no guarantees in life, only one day at a time. But our unity in a common cause, a worthy one, will strengthen us all.

What did you learn? People need leaders that meet their needs and provide direction in a crisis. We all know our [long-term-care] residents and patients need us all the time, regardless of what is going on in the world. This provides a common mission and focus that all can rally around.

How did you stay focused? I tried to just do my job, that's what my customers needed to see. I felt if I didn't, it would be another victory for the terrorists.

How did you stay focused? On Friday the 14th we had a scheduled monthly sales meeting, which some of my reps felt should be cancelled as a result of the tragic events on Tuesday. I went to my boss and suggested that we go ahead with the meeting – but observe a moment of silence out of respect for those who perished, their families and survivors. I was outraged at the perpetrators, and was determined that their actions would not disrupt ''business as usual.''

How did you stay focused? I was at a hospital that day that was told they would be getting victims in. So, we were busy getting extra supplies delivered by that evening. However, by the next morning it was clear that there were not going to be victims recovered. I cannot say I was up or down. Just busy getting done what needed to get done.

What did you learn? I think everyone learned that adversity brings out the best in people and in our country. I attended a vigil for one of the flight attendants from Flight 11 out of Boston. She was from our area. I was amazed to see the amount of people who came out and participated. I saw representatives from all ages, religions, races, etc., gathering together and uniting in prayer, song, and patriotism.

What did you learn? It renewed my faith in the general public. People prayed and cried together and were kind to each other.

How did you stay focused? Knowing the ability to treat the injured was dependent on our company's response with supplies was enough to keep focused and instill a strong sense of pride in our organization.

What did you learn? Our organization learned that we are prepared to respond to situations like this. Our entire team took on the attitude of ''We are Americans helping fellow Americans, and will do whatever it takes to get us through.''

How did you stay focused? I was in shock. I tried to snap out of it by making more field sales calls. Did not get much accomplished, but it helped get me back on track.

What did you learn? Talking about it with others helps a lot. We are in this together and need to lean on each other for support and to tone down the ''fears.''

What did you learn? The only thing I learned is that our fighting spirit was dormant. I think 9/11 changed that.

Manufacturers Respond

How did you stay focused? Incoming orders/calls were extremely slow for most of Tuesday, so we focused our attention on what we could do. We got together with our manufacturing and warehouse teams to determine what adjustments might be needed to meet the demand. We also made special arrangements to have all orders to NYC and Washington, DC, sent by hot shot truck. We tracked all shipments and kept the hospitals/distributors informed of the status of their orders.

What did you learn? I learned that as disconnected as the people of the US sometimes seem, we all rally together in crisis.

How did you stay positive? I have flown out of Logan airport in Boston many times. I really feel an odd sense of kinship with the people on the planes that were hijacked. They were just going to work, like I do. Why them? Why not me?…I've always operated under the ''reap what you sow'' principle: Work hard and be nice to people and everything will work out. How could so many innocent, hard-working people die if this principle is adequate?

What did you learn? It occurred to me that the medical supply industry operates below the average person's radar, but can have a huge impact on lives. I was proud of medical supply professionals and what we do, because I knew that behind the scenes on Sept. 11 and during the following days, we would do what we do best – get medical supplies to people who need them. Not glamorous or newsworthy, but so necessary.

How did you stay positive? I think we were all in shock a little bit, but I think I was able to present my products in a professional manner.

How did you stay focused? Staying positive is critical. Customers need that….The job that I have makes a difference in peoples' lives. It improves their quality of life. By going out and doing my job, I was making others feel better, which made me feel better.

How did you stay positive? We can't let them win by giving into the fear that we all seem to have. We beat it by not giving in.

How did you stay focused? We shipped 100,000 lbs. of supplies to New York on that Tuesday. You couldn't help but remain focused and concerned.

What did you learn? I didn't realize I was such a patriot. Many of my vendors are overseas. They e-mailed and prayed for our country; my heart swelled with pride that I am an American. I felt so honored to be part of a country that can bounce back from such a devastating blow. It always feels good to be part of a winning team or a team that can really pull together, but I never viewed my country as that team until now.

What did you learn? We are all survivors, and the civilization pulls together in tough times for help and support of each other. We will get through this, and we just may produce a better and closer-knit world.

How did you stay positive? I knew that, if anything, this was going to bring the people of this country back together. It's sad to say that the U.S. was in need of some form of unification, and also sad that this event had to be the catalyst for the unification to happen.

What did you learn? It seems that by coming together to talk, pray and be patriotic, people are finding a way to get through this.

How did you stay focused? Being in New York, this tragedy has hit us very hard….The way I was able to justify it to myself was that my company and I needed to focus and get products shipped to those who needed it most. Medical supplies and general supplies were needed at the [World Trade Center], so we worked with the local distributors who had clearance and delivered product to them. We also worked very closely with the local fire department, who was picking up donations of products and getting them to those who needed them most. Many firefighters needed our products. I felt that was the best contribution we could make at that time.

What did you learn? Everyone copes by helping out as much as they can. They turn to prayer, they reflect on being ready to face death suddenly. They ask themselves if they are enjoying the quality of life and paying attention to family, friends and others the way that we should be as Americans. It's a wake up call for various reasons in everyone's lives.

What did you learn? The only thing I learned was that what I do is not as important as I once thought. I will always continue to work hard, but I think my perspective has definitely changed.

Manufacturers' Reps Respond

How did you stay focused? The only way to get back at it was to remember that all of life is a conflict and only through adversity can you truly obtain an eventual peace. It would be a disservice to my parents, family, country and the souls in the rubble in New York not to make company, customers, and my country stronger each and every minute of every day that God gives us.

What did you learn? I guess I cope with adversity by trying to gain as much knowledge as possible about what's happening. Knowledge [equals] control, and when things this horrific happen, I feel a loss of control. Educating myself (news, Internet research) about the attacks, terrorism, Osama bin Laden, etc., gave me a sense of control.

What did you learn? Coping with adversity is what measures us, whether we are Americans enduring a disaster, or salespeople getting over the loss of a sale. The difference is that after we mourn awhile, we get back up, we set new priorities and we get to work. That's what makes us successful as people and as a country.

What did you learn? [Sept. 11] will truly be a day of reflection and sadness in the hearts of our country's citizens. Such horrors may be ours to witness for a long time to come, but I hope we are ready for the many twists this battle will surely bring. While the sacrifice has been great, and many wonder what the purpose might be in such a horrific occurrence, I am reminded of the great gift of agency we have been given. God has given each of us – even evil men, such as Bin Laden – the right to choose, inclusive of the impact it has upon the innocent. But of it all, if a nation's heart is softened and turned to those things that hold more eternal importance (God, family, and friends), then perhaps there is an underlying golden lining.

How did you stay positive? I really did not have any difficulty dealing with the tragedy, since I had experienced another life-changing event earlier in my life. In 1971 I spent a year in Vietnam as a combat helicopter pilot, so I had already been confronted by traumatic experiences….The main thing about the NY/DC events was that they showed the American people how vulnerable we can be to terrorist attacks. They also brought out a feeling of resolve and American spirit that we have not had in a long time.

Providers Respond

[How did you stay positive?] It was very hard to remain positive in light of the horror that took place on American soil to innocent people. However, being in health care, you cannot just take time off from patient care issues. I tried to concentrate on improving our facility's Disaster Plan and ensure product availability for surgeries.

How did you stay positive? My department and I were able to stay ''up'' simply realizing the fact that we were counted on to keep things moving. All were unsure as to what effect these events may have on the rest of us, and it was our job to keep a ''cool head'' and guarantee the end users of no disruptions.

How did you stay positive? After the initial shock of what was happening, I was able to maintain a positive attitude. Part of it was because I felt that we had to. Otherwise, the terrorists would have continued to win by our society and system going into the tank. We need to carry on in a manner that show we will be not defeated by them or ourselves.

How did you stay positive? I am good at crisis management, having been a hospital [materials manager] for many years. I learned that panic does nothing to move things forward. I learned it in other areas of life crisis, too. You think better and act smarter if you stay calm. You quickly realize what you can control and what you can't.

What did you learn? It is many years and many crises later that I find myself prepared to handle whatever. We all handle pain differently because of our background, our personality types and life experiences. We have to find ways to put all those different skills and qualities to work together to survive. Some people get angry, some are frightened, some just pretend nothing happened, and sadly, some are unaware what it means to them! However, it is a time where we need each other and we are aware of what really matters!

How did you stay focused? I do contracting and standardization for a provider organization, and the events helped us focus on the fact that our work does matter, but it isn't the ''be all and end all'' in our lives. We are all more grateful of the gifts that employees bring to the workplace on a daily basis, and recognize that their greatest work (with community, family, churches, etc.) happens outside our four walls.

Others Respond

Were you able to stay positive? I have tremendous faith that we will survive and be a stronger nation, and that we will overcome this tragedy and be a better country for it. [GPO]

Were you able to stay positive? Sept. 11 was extremely difficult. Even though I didn't have friends or family who were involved directly with this, it was just awful to think of all of the helpless victims in the planes, in the towers, and on the ground, and how their families must be trying to absorb and cope with such an event. It was also very difficult to come to terms with the fact of how we (the USA) became so vulnerable to such an event, and how the actual people (if you can call them that) involved were living among all of us for such a long time.

What did you learn? I felt better after I cried and dealt with my feelings directly. I also found it comforting to talk to other people about it and learn that they were going through the same thing. I also felt better when I did something to help. Unfortunately, I was too far away to respond directly, but I gave a contribution and blood.

How did you stay focused? Staying focused and ''up'' for me is easiest when I consider the customer-oriented mission that I have. That is, to put my customers' needs, (wife, children, medical customer, salespeople, company customer service people) ahead of my own needs. The worse the situation, the heavier I focus on others. It's amazing how it works. To be a leader, one must be a servant. I truly believe this.

What did you learn? The strength is an inner one and comes from a deeply planted faith tap root that provides the nourishment in times of personal and national crisis. Much like a tree that has been felled by an axe or saw, or a plant that has been cut back to almost ground level in the fall in expectation of the coming winter. The new growth begins immediately to look for the light. This must be what propelled the survivors of Auschwitz during the Nazi occupation. We all are equipped with this tap root, however, some have never been given the opportunity to learn about it, some are never taught, and some prefer not to acknowledge it.