Uptmor retiring after 25 years at Clinic
“Twenty five years ago, in 1984, when I was working at the day care center in the hospital Lorraine Nuxoll, LPN, told me the Board of Directors had decided to open a clinic in Cottonwood. She encouraged me to apply for the receptionist position,” said Theresa Uptmor, SMHC Business Services Officer who will be retiring from that position in mid September. “They told me the job would be part time until things got busier. Within two weeks I was working full time.”
“At that time Dr. Darrell Stoddard was the physician and Mary Watson, RN, was the nurse. It was just the three of us until Dr. Ron Sigler was hired that August” said Uptmor. “The exam rooms were in what used to be the sisters’ sleeping quarters. At that time I greeted the patients, did the coding, sent out the bills and also did some transcription. The doctors were primarily hand writing their notes for the patient’s medical record. We bought the clinic’s first computer from Arnzen Drug,. It was as big as a desk and clanked and banged while doing the data processing.”
Since those early days St. Mary’s Hospital has opened three additional medical clinics and hired a total of seven doctors and three family nurse practitioners. Last year the four clinics had over 35,000 clinic visits and the hospital ran over 62,000 in and outpatient lab tests.
The job evolved over the years, the workload expanded and as the clinics grew I grew with them, laughed Uptmor. In 2007 she was appointed to her current position which encompasses a variety of job responsibilities, including oversight of both the hospital and clinics’ business services, all clinic operations, billing and collections. Until recently she also oversaw the medical records and coding departments.
“I am self taught when it comes to coding or assigning a number to the doctor’s diagnoses and treatments. That number is then used to determine reimbursement. I took short classes and learned any which way I could.” In 2002 she passed the exam with a score of 94% to become a certified professional coder.
Uptmor was a member of the management team when SMHC received the ‘Top Management Team” award from HealthLeaders Magazine in 2005. SMHC also received the Governor’s Brightest Star Award in 2002.
“The most challenging part of my job has always been to make sure the clinics run smoothly. It often requires patience on the part of our patients because our doctors are some times pulled away unexpectedly from the clinic if there is an emergency or one of their patients goes into labor. It’s tough to explain to someone that they may have to wait because it’s crucial for the doctor to treat a potentially fatal heart attack before he or she sees someone with a cold. We’re fortunate because most people understand the situation.” said Uptmor. “My goal from my first day to this day is always to make sure the provider’s day goes well and that the patients and our staff leave happy at the end of the day. I want everyone to feel they’ve had a good encounter and leave with a smile on their face. If everyone’s had a good day then I’ve had a good day.”
Uptmor is not leaving the organization entirely. She will be working 20 hours per week, ten hours at SMHC and ten hours at Clearwater Valley Hospital in Orofino. as a coding auditor. She’ll ensure that coding remains compliant with insurance company requirements and confirm the facility is maximizing its reimbursement.
Sometimes patients complain about the cost of service, but we must have staff here 24/7 for our ER and inpatients and that’s an expensive proposition. We also don’t do the same volume as a large facility in a large city which can drive costs down. When I explain this people usually understand. We’re there for them if they ever experience that big event whether it’s the middle of the night or middle of the day.”
Uptmor says she’s planning on spending more time with her family; husband, Jack, a Keuterville farmer, her three children and two grandchildren. In addition, she plans on dusting off her sewing machine and, at some point, doing a bit of traveling. She is also joining the SMHC Foundation board. “I am committed to St. Mary’s and I’ll do any thing to keep it successful. We rely on the generosity of this community and I’m part of that community, too.”
“We’re glad Theresa will remain on our staff in a different capacity,” said Casey Meza, CEO. “She certainly can take a whole lot of the credit for the growth of our organization. She not only uses her head when overseeing our clinics, but she uses her heart when it comes to caring for our doctors, nurses, staff and, certainly, our patients. She’s one of a kind.”