For HCFA employees tired of the grind, there's a place where they can search for cushy private-sector jobs--HCFA's own Web site, www.hcfa.gov.
A job posting by Maximus, a large publicly traded consulting firm in McLean, Va., caused quite a stir among Web surfers who were trying to find information about Medicare and Medicaid. Providing such information is the site's primary purpose.
Maximus, which pulls in roughly $320 million per year from its contracts with federal, state and local governments, was recruiting for its "revenue maximization practice area." Applicants needed seven to 10 years of public-sector experience, a solid understanding of federal processes and policies used by HCFA, and an "excellent" relationship with key HCFA officials, according to the posting.
Nick Figurelli, Maximus' director of executive recruiting, says he thought the notice had appeared on the Web site for the HCFA Alumni Association, not HCFA's own site. However, the association's Web page, www.hcfa.gov/about/alumnihp.htm, is not separate from HCFA's site. It even bears the logos of HHS and HCFA.
"If it was on HCFA's Web site, it was a surprise to me," Figurelli says. "(The HCFA Alumni Association) was a good place to draw some potential talent."
A HCFA spokeswoman contacted about the Maximus posting says she wasn't aware of it and didn't know if there was anything improper about it.
The job posting was eventually removed, but not before Outliers saw it and several interested HCFA staffers contacted Figurelli.
"We got some good responses," he says.
Double duty. Claire Marie Panke is a real nurse, and also plays one on TV. The niche she has carved out for herself as both a filmmaker and nurse also is making her somewhat of a regular on this page.
Panke is the poster girl for the Coalition to Protect America's Health Care. The group has amassed $12.5 million since it formed last summer, all of which is being funneled into an advertising campaign to hawk relief from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
The coalition's television, radio and print ads all feature Panke, who works as a per diem nurse at 580-bed Saint Vincents Hospital and Medical Center in New York.
Panke was "the hands-down winner" from among 22 people who answered a casting call, says Etta Fielek, who heads the coalition.
When Outliers last mentioned Panke, it was in regard to the release of her documentary film, "A Chance to Grow," which chronicles the lives of three families in the neonatal intensive-care unit at Saint Vincents. The film's October premiere coincided with a freak car accident that killed four nurses who were mainstays of the NICU (Oct. 23, p. 44).
Panke notes the TV commercials mark her first time in front of the camera, but it felt natural to her.
"I really believe in the message, and when you really believe what you are saying, you don't get as distracted," she says.
Cushy job. Forget the Medicare reimbursement squeeze. Hospital administrators have plenty to give thanks for this year, according to the folks at St. Martin's Press, publisher of the 2001 edition of the Jobs Rated Almanac.
Namely: plush offices, high incomes and a positive career outlook.
This year's almanac ranked hospital administrator No. 12 in desirability among 250 occupations. It outscored insurance underwriter (No. 26), senior corporate executive (No. 79) and general practice physician (No. 91).
In the bottom half were registered nurse (No. 137) and nurse's aide (No. 199).
Criteria include salary, work environment, job security, stress and physical demands.
While hospital administrator declined from No. 9 in the last edition, published two years ago, author Les Krantz says the profession has plenty going for it.
It ranks a surprising No. 2 in outlook, which combines the potential for job growth through 2005, potential for promotion, unemployment rate and salary growth. It also carries a respectable annual income of $203,000 for those in the 90th percentile, and ranks No. 4 in work environment.
The only drawback is stress. On that score, the occupation ranks No. 139, indicating more pressure than most jobs.
"Hospital administrators usually have a pretty nice office," Krantz says. "It tends to be the type of job where there isn't a whole lot of turnover, and not a lot of physical demands."
Medical musicians. On Sunday evenings, some University of Michigan at Ann Arbor medical students and faculty put aside stethoscopes, syringes and test tubes for horns, bows and reeds. The orchestra includes students and faculty from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health, along with several medical center employees.
Bob Bartlett, a veteran surgeon, plays string bass in the group.
"Medicine has very high intensity, and perfection is required and expected," he says. "Here, no one suffers if you don't do it well--except for maybe the poor soul who has to listen to it."
Mitchell Williams, a doctoral student in conducting, directs. He hooked up with the group after he was rushed to the emergency room. In June, Williams inadvertently ate nuts; he's allergic to them. He went into anaphylactic shock and was rushed to University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, where he was put on a ventilator and cared for by Bartlett.
Now recovered and healthy, Williams is helping shape the music of those who helped save his life.
"Things have a funny way of coming full circle, I guess," he says.