Getting smarter, hopefully wiser – AN ARTSY JOURNEY #5
This was it, I thought, my big decision to move on from the medical profession after thirteen years as a registered nurse. I nudged the Chevette toward Bismarck State College, BSC. I had decided that adding colligate classes to my self-taught marketing ideas would enrich my business knowledge while boosting my credibility. My heart was beating in high gear even though I was downshifting the four-cylinder Chevette into a lower gear to chug up the small incline near campus.
From the road, I could easily make out my destination of the three-story college buildings that poked up like skyscrapers compared to the flat North Dakota terrain beyond the edge of town.
I puttered on and parked the car. I clenched my book bag and pressed forward. As the never-ending Dakota wind blew chilly on my face, I headed toward the admission building. Grasping the cold metal handle of the entrance door, my heart constricted with the significance of the moment. The emotional side of me wanted to simply scurry home to family in Michigan, tail between my legs, and admit I made a mistake of moving so far away. The practical side, though, knew that my current livelihood was coming directly from the Bismarck community so attending BSC was the logical choice for education.Despite my wounded pride, I was making progress by using my god-given artistic talent to implement a marketing concept for the hospital pediatric wing. In fact, the campaign was in full production. Preschool and elementary kids coloring books had hit the printing presses. Playful wallpaper boarders with art I created were being installed in patient rooms. It was an exciting time.
The synergy of networking with the Duran architects made me feel buoyant and alive. Having professionals listen and support my interior design ideas filled me with pride. I no longer felt caught in the middle, like in my nursing role, feeling wedged between patient rights and insurance companies dictating the duration of a patient stay.
Those times were a little different than presently. It was the late 1980s, and there wasn’t a marketing department at the hospital, yet.
Soon, though, advertising in the medical profession expanded everywhere. I watched Bismarck Hospital rebrand itself to MedCenter One – the across-the-street competitor to my loyal client, St. Alexius Medical Center. This was a ground-breaking development, historically speaking, because the primary focus of a hospital administration had not been marketing but the passing of medical-board certifications.
I’d spent thirteen years in six different hospitals, some large, some small, and could see that medicine was becoming competitive. Now MedCenter One, aka Bismarck Hospital, was confirming that perception. Traditionally, the idea of promoting and advertising a medical facility was a foreign one, but I pushed forward.
It was the reason I ended up making my marketing pitch, in the dark basement with Mr. Stahl, the facility manager. Before he accepted my call, I had contacted the hospital’s Department of Human Resources, thinking they might listen to my spiel about the St. Alexius “customer,” aka patient.
“No, we don’t consider the patient. Our job is to hire and fire the employees,” said a gruff voice in response to my phone pitch. “But if you’re thinking about color I’ll connect you to another department.”
The line clicked.
“A-V department,” a voice said.
My mouth opened – but nothing came out. I couldn’t believe that H. R. forwarded my call to some tech staff.
“Audio-visual department,” the voice repeated.
I wanted to present a campaign focusing on the patient, making their hospital stay more visually soothing and comforting … and I was about to talk to the slide-projector guy?
I proceeded, though, and the A.V. guy listened. He let me prattle on about my strategy.
“I’m not the person you need to talk to, but you mentioned books, so I’ll transfer you,” he said.
“This is accounting,” a voice said.
I spoke. He listened and stated, “Not our department.”
My headstrong German-Irish heritage kicked in, and I kept dialing. Long story short, the Dean of the Hospital approved my concept, and, months later, I knew if I wanted to make a go of a career in marketing, and if I wanted to move from Bismarck, I would need more than my previous nursing science classes of microbiology and anatomy-physiology. That education did little to qualify me for economics, accounting, and business law so I committed to being a full-time student – and then some.I learned that, after 15 credits of enrollment, the tuition was a flat fee ... so why not add an art elective class, too? I could only endure so much economics of “guns and butter,” “supply and demand.” So … in a bit of a whim I took my first art elective.
Who knew it would change my world.