ROANOKE, Va. — As I sit down to write this article many schools are reopening, Labor Day is fast approaching and the end of summer is right around the corner.

These changing times should remind us that life, jobs and weather go through seasons and change sometimes without notice. The best we can do is plan for an uncertain future, make sure our plans are flexible and always keep a positive attitude.

I can remember when I was working in Milwaukee and just beginning to try to develop a surgical pack program. All the experts advised me that I should start with surgical towel packs and then move into gown and towel packs.

I, of course, tried to follow their advice, but the surgical departments I worked with refused to consider towel packs but were open to trying gown and towel packs. Delighted to have the opportunity to prove ourselves, we embraced this opportunity and develop a well-accepted program in this area. The surgeons and staff preferred the reusable gowns because they were easier to use and were more comfortable.

Then, overnight, there was a worldwide disposable surgical towel shortage. The Chinese had shifted production from inexpensive surgical towels to other textiles because of a trade dispute with the United States. 

I was surprised and delighted to get a phone call from the surgical departments asking me if I could help fill the void during this time of shortage. I still had access to high-quality OR towels made in the USA through my prime vendor and agreed to fill in on a temporary basis until the regular supply became available.

We had planned for the day they would change their minds but never expected an urgent call and an immediate demand. We quickly geared up production and changed work schedules so we could keep the current supply in circulation as much as possible.

We went far beyond what a normal vendor would do to meet the needs of our member hospitals. Because of our preplanning, we were able to provide a high-quality product on a consistent basis.

All we ever wanted was the opportunity to prove that we could meet their needs.

When the supply shortage was solved, the surgical departments never returned to the disposable towels. They went one step further and took all the disposable towels and gowns out of their custom surgical packs and gave the work to us. I had faith that eventually we would get the opportunity to prove ourselves but it came in a very unexpected way.

While I worked in Roanoke, Virginia, I had been working on developing a strong management staff. We had good leaders and several key people who showed potential to move up if an opening became available.

Suddenly a routine back surgery on one of my supervisors went very wrong. They spent months in recovery including extensive physical therapy. This supervisor was never able to return.

But thanks to our employee development program we had a person we could promote into that position who did an excellent job. This was not how we expected the change to come but we were ready.

Through all these events the management and line staff looked to me for guidance direction and to set the tone. I always made sure that we were in a “we can handle this” attitude. That we were ready and able to meet the changes when they occur. That we were prepared for almost anything we could dream up.

This time of the year should remind us that with the changing of the seasons we should be preparing for changes in our lives and in our businesses.