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A uniform policy @MayoClinic #RochMN ... ?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a Post-Bulletin column about a new uniform policy affecting about 900 clinical assistants and desk workers at Mayo Clinic here in Rochester, Minnesota.

Many clinical assistants called afterward. They nearly universally made a point of thanking the newspaper for writing about the topic — because they felt as if it's something they dare not speak about in the work environment.

As I mentioned in the column, Mayo, for years, has been cited as one of the best companies in the country to work for.

But clinical assistants were frustrated that, as some of the lowest-paid workers at the clinic, they're being asked to buy enough uniforms to meet their work needs.

They wanted in particular to make sure I clarified that the $400 repaid through payroll deduction is money they themselves have to pay. Mayo does not plan to give a clothing allowance as the workers switch from scrubs to a standardized uniform. Rather, the workers can get up to $400 worth of uniforms to replace their current work clothes and must pay that amount via payroll deduction (or credit card, immediate payment, etc.) over the course of 24 pay periods.

The workers expressed frustration that Mayo chose a Twin Cities uniform supplier that gets its uniforms from another country. In general, callers said they'd instead prefer to support local shops that sell uniforms.

They're also frustrated that the uniforms, they say, come in limited sizes and if their needs fall outside those sizes they must then get the uniform tailored every time they get a new one.

Clinical assistants wanted me to know that they perform a variety of tasks, in addition to the compassionate work of helping a patient in the rest room. They help with procedures, help with doctor communication and making sure patients get medication deliveries, as but limited examples of their varied duties.

They praised Mayo for encouraging education and certification, but were universally frustrated with Mayo's handling of the uniforms issue. 

The calls continue to come.

Recently, callers have said that they're walking on proverbial eggshells because they're afraid to speak openly. There's also talk of organizing a union.

Seems when you make many among a group of 900 or so workers mad, there can be ripple effects.

No Mayo decision-makers or uniforms committee members have called to express Mayo's view. And perhaps they don't need to.

As I said in the column, the decision's been made. It's unlikely it will be changed (which might frustrate all those who have spent a couple of hundred dollars).

Clinical assistants have called to vent, reinforce that there's a communication problem and thank the Post-Bulletin for writing about the issue.

Seems to me, in my personal opinion, that someone failed to communicate very well. 

Previously, I'm told, the problem with scrubs was that some supervisors were lax on enforcement of the dress policy. But a decision to switch to a standardized shirt-and-slacks policy might lead to the same problem, clinical assistants tell me.

Already, some supervisors say they won't enforce the new policy and will allow workers to buy their uniforms from places other than the approved out-of-town supplier.

Thus, the same problems as before will occur, clinical assistants tell me.

Only the future will demontrate the accuracy of that prediction.

Seems to me, in my personal opinion, that perhaps decision makers ought to gather around a table ask themselves where they went wrong, what they might have done differently and whether some of the employee concerns are valid.

One caller said it "breaks my heart that you're not free to speak about somthing as simple as a uniform."

Please keep in mind that companies often make business decisions that are unpopular. Right or wrong, front-line workers only get to make policy themselves when they become owners, supervisors or decision-making committee members themselves.

Still, when next the best-places-to-work survey occurs, this one chunk of the Mayo staff might have a tough pill to swallow if they're to rate their experience as highly as they once did.

Pulse on Health
By Jeff Hansel, member Association of Health Care Journalists
Health Reporter for the, 18 1st Ave. S.E. in Rochester, Minnesota 55904 
Twitter Hansel's Pulse: @Jeff Hansel


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I don't get it. The cost of uniforms is far cheaper than buying clothing. Where does this entitlement come from? These assistants can even spread out the cost. I agree they should be allowed to buy where they choose. This is America. If you don't like it change jobs! Why does an employer have to pay for your clothing since there is a dress code. I am going to my employer right now and demand that they buy my suits, shoes, belts, purses since I need to look a certain way in my position. I am not allowed to wear what I want either. I want my job to pay for my clothing too! We should all rally against our employers if they want us to wear clothes. We should make them pay. I am not sure about this but I think they can deduct the cost of uniforms from their taxes. I can’t do that.
Come on people.

If people only really new the "real"Mayo,it's big business not the down home hospital and community,also another thing that has bothered me on their tv ad campain,they have a man working on a railroad from way back then and the whole theme is "collaboration"well the man on the ad looks like asian decendent and if you look back in history all the laborers on the railroad were chinease slaves,no collaboration on that part,seems like Mayo needs to get a better PR group,although maybe it just shows how they run there business,people afraid to say or speak up

I hope the clinical assistants do organize to exert their power through collective bargaining. Mayo recently announced an aggressive, expensive expansion plan; but they fail to place sufficient value on the unsung human capital that makes the Clinic work. It would cost them next to nothing to forgo a minuscule portion of the capital expansion funding to properly reimburse the CA's - particularly compared to the underestimated cost of disenfranchising an essential group of employees.

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