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Archive January 2021 XXII, No. 1

Editor's Page: Checks and Balances

Fair salaries are found in the sweet spot between passion and pay.

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Editor-in-Chief

BIO

I remember my first paycheck. It was made on a now-vintage machine, the kind with a hand crank that imprinted the amount: Ten Dollars. That was my starting salary for a week-long summer gig as a kid at my grandfather's civil engineering firm, a mom-and-pop shop housed in a three-story walkup in downtown Philadelphia. A small staff, including my grandmother, managed construction projects throughout the city.

Long before email and faxes, my grandfather would call me into his office to deliver messages to colleagues. He'd open one of the trade publications stacked neatly on his desk, hand me a pencil and several sheets of tracing paper, and ask me to draw my favorite bulldozers, front-end loaders and dump trucks.

On a few special occasions, he handed me a personalized yellow hard hat as we stepped out of his station wagon to check on job sites. I was thrilled to stand next to him as he shook hands and slapped backs. I'm sure he liked having me by his side, too.

When my grandfather handed me that first paycheck, I was filled with incredible pride and felt a sense of purpose at a job I loved.

"Well, what do you think?" he asked.

I stared down at the figure, thought about all I had accomplished throughout the week, then looked him dead in the eye.

"I want a raise."

My grandfather tilted his head back and howled with laughter. He was clearly entertained by my gumption and perhaps a bit proud that his young grandson asked for more money.

After the following summer's week of employment, the check I received reflected my new salary: Ten Dollars and Ten Cents. Finally, I was being fairly compensated for all of my important work.

Can you say the same? It's fair to wonder if you get paid enough for the long hours you work and the numerous responsibilities listed on your LinkedIn profile. You manage multimillion-dollar budgets and feel just as comfortable working alongside star surgeons as you do negotiating with hard-nosed vendors. You're infection preventionists, human resource professionals, project managers and patient advocates. You show immeasurable passion for your job and a level of dedication to your career not often found in other professions.

Over the past year, you've completely reinvented how surgery is performed to comply with new COVID-19 guidelines, while managing to keep your facility solvent during the nationwide shutdown of elective procedures. You're probably working twice as hard now just to keep your ORs running, and your patients and staff safe.

Still, many of you who responded to our annual salary survey said you're generally satisfied with the size of your paychecks. It's clear your salary pays the bills, but your job pays you back through the connections you make with your staff and patients. You're personally invested in the success of your facility, and your ability to provide needed surgical care during the pandemic gets you out of bed in the morning.

That's not surprising in a profession full of providers who find personal fulfillment in more than a hard-earned buck — just as summers spent with my grandfather formed a lifetime bond between us that was worth much more than ten dollars and ten cents. I never got around to cashing that check. It still reminds me to earn what I'm worth, as long as earning it is worth it. OSM

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