Wendy Schlatner’s career started in investment banking and investment relations. She took a 16-year career break and then made a career transition when she relaunched in medical practice management. Her interest in the new field was piqued after spending several summers running the health office at her kids’ sleepaway camp. In this episode, which is part of our “Relaunching in Medicine” mini-series, we will hear from Wendy about how she navigated her career shift and progressed in her post-relaunch career to Practice Administrator for Orthopedics and Interventional Pain Management at White Plains Hospital.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Before we get started, I want to remind our listeners who are actively relaunching to make sure to register and upload your resume to our iRelaunch Job Board.
Employers looking to hire relaunchers regularly peruse our job board for candidates for their career reentry jobs and programs. So let's now get onto our podcast conversation today. We welcome Wendy Schlatner. Wendy's career started in investment banking and investment relations. She took a 16 year career break and then made a career transition when she relaunched in medical practice management.
Her interest in the new field was piqued after what she calls her unofficial relaunch, in which she spent several summers running the health office at her kids sleepaway camp. In this episode, which is part of our Relaunching in Medicine Miniseries, we will hear from Wendy about how she navigated her career shift and progressed in her post relaunch career to Practice Administrator for Orthopedics and Interventional Pain Management at White Plains Hospital. And Wendy is speaking to us from her office there because she's in the medical field, she has been working almost consistently through Covid.
Wendy, welcome to 3,2,1 iRelaunch.
Wendy Schlatner: Thank you. And thank you for having me.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Well, I'm really excited about this conversation. I also started in a finance career, but then I stayed in it until co-founding iRelaunch. So you really made quite a pivot and it's interesting to hear how it happened. Maybe we could start by you giving us a brief summary of your background and what you did prior to your career break and why you took the career break?
Wendy Schlatner: Sure. So out of college, when I graduated from the University of Michigan, I started at Chase Bank in their investment training program, an analyst training program. It was not necessary to have a finance background or a business school major.
And after a several month training program, if you were successful, they placed you in one of the departments. I was in the media and technology department on the commercial banking side, where we did credit and loans, credit and lending. After a few years doing that. I was promoted into the associate program, another couple of months of training, and then I went into the investment banking side.
I was in mergers and acquisitions and a couple of other departments for a few years. And it was a great experience, great strong finance, experience and background. But I quickly determined that specific area wasn't gonna be for me, and I left and I went to Time Warner on the corporate side, and that's where I worked in investor relations.
And that was a better fit for me because it, it was a combination of the finance and the people skills and working with investors and talking to people, working with other departments within the organization. And that's where I found it to be a better fit. So that was before, all of that was done before my career break.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And then, so you were at Time Warner and, very interesting about the move into investor relations and that you could even think about that as an option for yourself, 'cause I'm thinking when I was in that stage of my finance career, that didn't occur to me as an option, and now that you're mentioning it, it might have been a good one.
Wendy Schlatner: Well, Maybe it'll help spark interest for somebody else.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes, maybe. All right, so then you're working there and what led to your career break?
Wendy Schlatner: So then I had my daughter while I was there, and a couple years after that I was pregnant with twins. And having three children three and under really prompted the career break.
And I looked at it as, I'm gonna stay home, I'm fortunate enough to be able to do this for a couple of years, take care of my kids and then I'll go back. And I didn't know what that was gonna look like part-time, full-time, close to home, we moved to the suburbs, my job had been in the city, things like that.
Two years became three, became four and the needs of the kids and the needs of my family changed a bit. And it was really important for me to be home with them. And so that just became more years and more time than I expected initially. So it was not the plan to be out of work for that long. I think that's, I've heard other podcasts you've had, and it's not uncommon. But for me, I didn't plan on that, on how that was going to look.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yes. And you're absolutely right. We hear this so consistently, people think they're only gonna take a short term out and then it becomes much longer. Interesting to hear your experience on that. So how did you end up running the health office at your kid's sleepaway camp?
Wendy Schlatner: That's a great question. So the camp that my kids went to, Camp Wayne for Girls and ultimately Camp Wayne for Boys was the same summer camp that I went to as a kid, as a child, and as a camper, and loved it and had an attachment and it was my alma mater. And I jokingly said to the director one summer when my daughter was there before my boys started, I would love to come back and work here someday. And I kept it out there, but it really was half kidding. And the summer my boys were starting, I got a call from her saying, Were you serious? We need someone to run our health office. And the first thing, one of the first things she said to me was, Wendy, you need to understand that this is not a job at camp where you're out on the campus with your clipboard having fun, talking and socializing with your friends and and reliving camp, was how she put it.
This is one of the real, one of the hardest, most real jobs at camp, and you're in the health center and you're working. And you're working all day. I said, Sign me up. Sure. And that was, and it was a perfect fit at the perfect time for me, where I was able to spend my summers there, do the work. It felt like a job again, and that was really rewarding and meaningful. Right thing at the right time.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And, but having that deep connection with your employer where you end up working and, the people that ran that camp, so interesting. They knew you, they knew what the job entailed and that call was not made by accident.
Okay. So you did that for, how many years and then what made you think it's time to do something else?
Wendy Schlatner: So that I did for five years and five summers. And again, much like when I took the break, when I took the position, I didn't expect it to be five summers or five years. It was a one year at a time situation and it worked out really well, and I came in at a time when the health center was, when the director of the camp was somewhat new to managing the health center, and I was new to running the health center and we did it together in collaboration. And I think they would say that I helped really relaunch the health center and how it looked from a managerial standpoint and a nursing standpoint and a medication to camper standpoint and everything else you can think of that might involve healthcare at a summer camp. And so summer after summer, please, would you like to come back? Are you coming? Please come back. I said yes. And in the interim, I was starting to look for full time work outside of camp, outside of the summer's, full-time, year round. And it was difficult and it was hard to reenter.
And as of course that is where you were all born and I got involved with iRelaunch, and I went to a couple of seminars, and I spoke with people, and I applied even maybe to one or two of the returnships over the years in finance thinking maybe I would go back to that. But the truth was, I really liked healthcare. And even though a summer at a health at a summer camp isn't nearly what I'm doing now, it was an intro, unexpectedly an intro. And, what prompted me to continue maybe, or go into it, was really, I got a call from my, I had been there three or four summers and my college roommate and friend who was a dermatologist, called me and said, Would you be interested in managing my dermatology office? I said, Wow.
Wow. And she said, If you, she said if you could manage a health, and her kids went to a different summer camp so she knew all about it, If you can manage the parents, the staff, the campers, and the health office itself, and the ordering and the supplies and everything else, you can, you are just what I need to manage my office and I want someone who's professional. I want someone who's smart. I want someone who has this experience. Will you do it? And that's how it, that's, I think practice, medical practice management kind of found me and probably not the other way around.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Thinking about this, you don't have medical background, but there's so much about managing, it's the business side and the logistics, and that's completely separate from the medical judgment and everything that's involved in the medical side of it, but is to having a health facility, whether it's summer camp, a dermatology practice or something else, run effectively and efficiently. So it was that very interesting combination of experiences and so perceptive of your dermatologist friend to identify that you really did have this perfect skill set, and she's someone who happened to know by being your friend, what your background was.
Okay, so you come into this practice. Were you taking over for someone? Did you establish it? What happened there?
Wendy Schlatner: Yeah, so that's a great question. So Dr. Wesson's office had been, she had several previous office managers over a couple of years, that for different reasons didn't work out.
And I think, and according to her, when she called me and we talked many times before I ultimately accepted the role, it was a long commute. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. It was from where I lived in Westchester to Long Island and there were a lot of factors and my kids were a little younger back then, and how would the commute work out and she was really trying to help make it work for me, which was great.
But her, I think the reason, what I think the reason she wanted to talk to me was because the need of her practice had grown from a traditional, maybe let's call it office manager role, to more than that. She had, she started as her own one person dermatology, small practice. There were now three physicians, estheticians, MAs, front desk.
It was a bigger practice, and needed more attention, more time and stronger management. And so I think that was where she thought I would be a good fit.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And so did you just show up on day one and start working? Or were there systems you had to learn?
Wendy Schlatner: That is also a great question, a little bit of both. it was a little bit of both. I did show up on day one and I did not have a previous office manager who was still there to show me, teach me, train me, transition me, nothing. There were staff there who were excellent and had been there for a long time and there were certain things that they were of course, able to show me from a front desk perspective, a software perspective, their EMR system.
I was able to train and learn with the people who were there, the billing company, they had an outside biller who did some of their billing. And so they were very helpful and I was very resourceful I think in getting to know them. And in going through old records and old files online on the network drive, I remember doing that.
I remember that maybe three weeks into my job, Dr. Wesson said to me, We need to get everybody, I think it's about that time of year we need to get everybody re-certified in HIPAA and OSHA. Now I never did that at the camp because these nurses came to camp with their certifications. So I went into their network drive. I went to Google . I did a couple of searches through all these places, and within about a week I had a course and a sign up, and I sent out an email to the staff and how they should sign up and what the deadline was in a spreadsheet to make sure everyone was doing it. And I remember Dr. Wesson saying, How did you know how to do all of that? ? And I said, it's an on the job training. So you know, it was a lot of that. And then I had her support for sure, and the other doctors and the staff, and so it was a little bit of both.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Yeah. First of all, what is for our audience, what does EMR stand for?
Wendy Schlatner: Oh, I'm sorry, electronic medical records. So every doctor's office or medical office or hospital you go to when they ask you your name and date of birth and they type everything in and they scan your insurance in, it's all going into the EMR.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Okay, got it. And it's interesting the question she's asked you like, How did you know how to do this? There was a certain degree of resourcefulness that you brought with you to this role, and also you were able to on ramp into this role and learn all these new things in an environment that was very friendly and supportive. Your friend was there, she really wanted you to be there, pretty ideal situation for everyone involved.
Wendy Schlatner: Yeah, I think that's probably true and I don't think I appreciated it or realized it at the time, certainly not in that first year. It was a crazy first year. We were very busy. And to go back to your first, your initial question, there were some new systems we had to put in place and restructure and account for the growth in the office and all of that.
But she was fantastic and supportive and helpful. And as were the other doctors as were the staff. It's the challenge in starting over and then going into a new job in a pretty much new field is, there's a little hesitation. Am I the right person? No matter how established I may have been previously in a career or at a different job within this industry, it's something new that I hadn't done.
I had to have the confidence to ask the right questions. You have to, right? And that's, and I would say that to anybody doing this, you have to ask questions. You have to have the confidence to go to the right people, the right resources, and if you're not in the right place, either figure out how to get there or talk to someone else in the industry or in your office about how to get there.
Carol Fishman Cohen: .
So you referenced the first year, it was super busy, super challenging. You had a commute, your family was, you weren't just relaunching, your whole family was adjusting to new routines. Can you give us a little bit of a window into that first year and what challenges you might have had, things that might have not been, not worked out the way you thought and how you handled them, and how you look at it now retrospectively?
Wendy Schlatner: That, that's also a great question. And one, I don't think about anymore so much, but in the moment I did. So there was the getting out the door early and leaving oftentimes before the kids rather than having the previous role where I made sure they got on the bus, and I made sure they did what they had to do in the morning. And it was a little bit of a role reversal, having to figure out truthfully to the nitty gritty, how to plan meals on a Saturday or Sunday for the week.
The food shopping was different. I couldn't pop into the supermarket on a Tuesday afternoon 'cause I forgot to buy chicken. Things like that, yeah, that we can laugh about, but it was a really different environment for my family. And it's, I appreciate that you asked the question because I think it's a, it is a conversation worth having for anybody, at least from my perspective, coming from where I'm coming from for the reasons taking the career break for your family.
It's an important question to ask. It's important to consider before you go back. But some of it, no matter how hard you plan and what you, think you're going to do happens as you go. So if I got stuck in the office late and I couldn't get home, my kids knew what to do. They were old enough to certainly be independent and manage and put a pizza in the oven, but they were not old enough to drive and they were not old enough to get themselves somewhere. So it was an interesting transition time for all of. At the end of the day, I truly believe it has been the best thing for all of us. I think they have become independent. They understand the value of the work I'm doing, on so many different levels. And we are all healthy, happy, good people, not without our challenges, they're teenagers, but it's, it is, I think it's all worked out really well despite the initial challenges.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So, Wendy, can you tell us approximately how old were your children when you did your official relaunch, not the unofficial one at camp, but the official relaunch in the dermatology office. And about how many years have you been at it? So just so we understand the age range that we're talking about in terms of your kids.
Wendy Schlatner: Yes. So it was 2018 when I started in the dermatology office. My twin boys were 12, my daughter, almost 16. . And, so it's been a little over four years altogether since I started the full time relaunch.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Got it. And this whole idea about having to, everyone has to retrain in some regard, like getting everything ready the night before, so people are organized that morning. And then as you're saying, when you left before them, talk about developing independence, they had to get themselves out the door, and that certainly is an experience that can be very maturing for kids, and a good one. So I guess I, I wanted to know a little bit more about the role you're in now and how you moved from the dermatology office to the role you're in now, and maybe can you explain what you're doing now?
Wendy Schlatner: Sure, absolutely. So when at the, I worked in the dermatology office through the pandemic and of course, in any field, but certainly the medical field, that was a very challenging time. And in a private dermatology practice we closed for about two months. And I was still coming in about once a week just checking on things as the manager, but by myself, we went through all that transition and the masks and the reopen and the slow reopen.
So the pandemic was a, was unexpected and challenging, but very good all around, we really, I think the office to, to the doctor's credit mostly, but also the staff and myself, we did a great job reopening, and working through it and seeing what the patients we had to see during that time.
In the beginning of 2021, I had been speaking to some of my friends outside of work, you know, about what my next steps would be and where I would go and what I wanted to do to grow my career. And a friend of mine who lives in my hometown is a surgeon here at White Plains Hospital, and he was one of the people I was talking to and he, and I saw a posting at the hospital for this job and we talked about it and he helped get my resume to someone in leadership and administration. And so an interview was born and I started the process to look for this position and interview for this position.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So a key handoff there, this is a friend or neighbor of yours from your neighborhood, just to underscore again, you never know who in your network is gonna end up being that person that will have the opportunity to help your relaunch along by elevating your resume to the right person. So perfect example of that. So you interviewed, you started the job, what was different? You weren't a relauncher anymore, you were a lateral hire.
You're an experienced hire. Was there something that you recognized was different, because you were now moving from working in one job to working in another as opposed to the relaunch, even though the relaunch came from, you were coming from that summer experience that you had?
Wendy Schlatner: So it's a great question, and if I may, I'm gonna take a step back to say that even though it wasn't a relaunch, that gap in the resume, so to speak, literally and figuratively stayed with me.
When you're interviewing for the next, when I was interviewing for that next job here at White Plains Hospital, that is still almost the number one question that the people I interviewed with were would ask, is interest your gap between your investment and finance and Time Warner career and the job in dermatology, oh, then the job at camp and the job in dermatology. There's still, there was still a 10 plus year break between finance and camp, and then camp and the dermatology. So I don't want it lost. I think that still follows me. Is that career break. But to your point, it wasn't exactly a relaunch, it was just my next step in the career.
And so now that I am here and I, and I started the job, it was very different. This is a hospital management job and a hospital practice, or it was at least when you know it is, but I was a manager when I first started. I'm an administrator now, and it was for a hospital based, orthopedic practice, not a private dermatology practice.
And once again, I found myself on the learning curve, learning a new practice, learning new practices, work that didn't have to get done at a private practice as much, but was part of a hospital practice. I had an administrator, I was working, for and with when I started, and she was a mentor and she was great and she taught me a lot of what I needed to know.
Fortunately for her, unfortunately for me, after I had been there for about three months, she left for another opportunity, a wonderful opportunity for her. And there I was, and I had, and I was working with another manager, an experienced manager who had been here for many years who was very helpful, and an office supervisor in one of our other orthopedic offices.
So I had a good team and I had a great chief, have and had at the time, a great chief of the department who I still work very closely with and who has been also a mentor and a, and, an advisor, a big help in running this department.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Interesting. I love hearing about that evolution. And also they were asking you about your career break, and maybe with a slightly different hat on, because it was historical, that it was almost a point of interest.
Let us understand this a little bit more, less relevant in terms of the transitioning from the immediate prior role which was relevant and looked like a perfect stepping stone.
Wendy Schlatner: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely was a point of interest. I guess that's probably the right, they talked to me about my volunteer work I did in between, it wasn't completely erased because I had a few years of office management experience.
Carol Fishman Cohen: Right. So how long have you been in this role at the hospital?
Wendy Schlatner: So when I started in 2021, at the beginning of 2021, I was an office manager. And then when the administrator left that I just spoke about, I was a promoted to practice manager. And I was very appreciative of the fact that both my predecessor and the chief of my department and other doctors and such had recommended that I fill that role and fill that void.
I had only been here a few months and be given the opportunity to ultimately work towards and transition to the administrator role, which is what I am doing now. I'm the practice administrator. And so I've been here for a little like maybe a year and a half, between a year and a half and two years in or at White Plains Hospital and in orthopedics, and it's been a really great career path. Really. Great.
Carol Fishman Cohen: So Wendy, that sounds like two promotions in a very relatively short timeframe, which says a lot about you and a lot about your employer and what they recognized about you, so congratulations.
Wendy Schlatner: Thank you. I really appreciate that. I think, I am well aware of what it says about my employer and the fact that they gave me this opportunity, so that I agree with. And I think the other piece that's worth mentioning is that, as I said about my resume and as I said about the career break followed me, right, the relaunch followed me, I think I also took one step back in order to know that I could take two or three steps forward here when I came here. And that was very conscious and deliberate on my part because I knew that this organization here would be a place I could hopefully, if all went well, establish a career and there would be a career path.
I talked about it in my interview process a lot, and so I, it was a risk I was willing to take, so to speak, to take a like maybe a half or a one step back to then be able to get this mobility to move back up. And that's something I would encourage other people to think about anywhere early on in their relaunch.
Carol Fishman Cohen: I'm really glad you mentioned that because it is a good strategy in certain situations, definitely in yours, and how you could talk about that in the interview as being something, because they might have wondered, why are you interested in a position that appears to be junior to what you're leaving?
And you could say, or where you're coming from, and you can talk about how you see this being a long-term opportunity at providing a career path, and that would be very attractive to an employer and also indicate a fair amount of reflection and maturity, which they'd also really appreciate. So I'm really glad you mentioned that. I hope Relaunchers keep that in mind as a thought process and as an interview strategy.
Wendy, we're wrapping up now and I want to wrap up by asking you the question that we ask all of our podcast guests, and that is what is your best piece of advice for our relaunch your audience, even if it's something that we've already talked about today.
Wendy Schlatner: So I think that there are two things I would say to the relaunchers, one is it's never too late to start a relaunch, and sometimes it feels daunting. The longer you've been out of work, the harder it is to think about going back and put yourself out there and try to tell your story, but don't hesitate if it's what you wanna do. It's never too late.
And the other thing I would say is take risks. Think outside the box. Talk to everybody you know who's doing pretty much anything. I did not think when I took that camp job that was gonna be anything more than a job and an opportunity to do some work and get my toe in the water to do something for a summer.
And of course, help pay for my kids to go to camp. But look at what happened. And I would say I would encourage everybody to just go outside their comfort zone a little bit. Try something new and different and take some risks along the way.
Carol Fishman Cohen: I love that, and hope that message is coming through loud and clear to those relaunchers who know that they are anticipating a career transition, not probably returning to what they left, or maybe even if they're considering it, that there are a range of other options and to really keep yourself open. So that's great advice. Wendy, thank you so much for joining us today.
Wendy Schlatner: You're very welcome. Thank you so much for having me.
Carol Fishman Cohen: And thanks for listening to 3,2,1 iRelaunch, the podcast where we discuss return to work strategies, advice, and success stories. I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, the CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch and your host. Once again, I want to remind our listeners who are actively relaunching to make sure to register and upload your resume to our iRelaunch Job Board where employers are looking to hire relaunchers and regularly peruse our job board for candidates for their career entry jobs and programs.
And be sure to visit iRelaunch.Com to access our many return to work tools and resources and to sign up for our mailing list so you can receive our weekly Return to Work Report featuring career reentry job and programs. Thanks for joining us.