"When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music."
I have such incredible respect and admiration for my mentors and role models. Have you ever asked someone you admire to tell you their story? Their real story - bumps and all? I know that to emulate them, I must constantly replenish my knowledge, perception, and character (a.k.a. my Triumph Triangle). It is my privilege to connect with people who have turned their vision into reality and to learn their real story, bumps and all. This article is about a conversation I had with someone I admire.
Meet Gretchen Bebb. Gretchen is a wish-doer. She wished to play the flute so she became a master flutist. She likes flowers so she nurtures an abundant garden. She knew there had to be a better system for serving her clients, so she invented a way. On a March Monday morning, it was my privilege to have a wonderful conversation with her about the road to TreatWrite. She created a product. I am here to talk about the person behind the product.
Professional Bio in Brief
Gretchen is a Speech-Language Pathologist who is driven to improve the lives of others by improving their communication skills. If you were to see her resume, you would notice that she has worked in all types of settings, has instructed students at two universities, and has extensive experience with private practice business management. As an advocate for people in need of speech therapy services, she has chaired a Reimbursement Task Force and served on ASHA's Health Care Economics Committee. Committed to sharing her creative developments, Gretchen writes articles, presents at seminars and meetings, and publishes therapy programs such as ConnecTalk© and ProWrite. She has recently developed the Expressive Speech Profile and has launched a web-based documentation solution called TreatWrite.
If you are a wish-doer, great problems inspire great solutions. The seed that grew into TreatWrite was planted in 1989 at a nursing station. Like most S-LPs, Gretchen wrote pages and pages of notes regarding her clients, while wondering if anyone would really read her words. In an ideal world, she would be able to quickly record the relevant information on one page, then go on to help her next client. Wish. Do.
Action and Reaction
Gretchen compiled her ideas and questions about creating a more efficient documentation system, then approached people in the know. She connected with ASHA and Medicare to discuss her goal of following progress overtime, while efficiently documenting all information on one piece of paper. The result was a plan for a Functional Status Report. This was copyright protected, then accepted by a publishing company.
When the publishing company ultimately was sold, it returned the copyright to Gretchen. Starting over and moving forward, she decided to create the report herself on a friend's Macintosh computer. This took three years to complete, and was then used in practice until 2003.
Change of Plans
Reimbursement rates dramatically fell. Gretchen's response was to create more office efficiencies so that S-LP's could have a means to work more productively with the best interest of their clients in mind. This time, she accessed help from a relative who had programmed airline databases. A year and a half later, the result was a software package. She brought it to the ASHA convention in Miami where hundreds of people signed up to learn more about it. Wow - a leading edge technology with huge interest from her professional peers! The sky is the limit. Stop. Internal conflict break:
"I can't do this. I know nothing about software."
"We can`t go back!!! We have done so much that we can`t go back."
Resilience and resourcefulness prevail. Gretchen accessed the Huston Technology Centre, which mentors young companies to create a Texas presence in the market. The recommendation was to turn the documentation software into a web product. It would be universally available to people. Their programmers completed the transformation.
Two decades after knowing there had to be a better way and that she was going to make it happen, TreatWrite was launched in July, 2008. At minimum, TreatWrite's documentation system saves S-LP's hours each week, ensures S-LP accountability, and enables S-LPs to help insurance companies understand the services while giving the client a clear estimate of the pending costs for those services. Applause.
When I asked Gretchen about her internal motivation for creating products such as TreatWrite, she said that we must be active as a profession and contribute to our industry's sustainability. We are accountable. As a helping, active, learning profession, "it is always good to create and to go forward to make things better." The ultimate goal would be to have no insurance denials, while saving time and collecting excellent information for families and doctors.
She emphasized this particular achievement did not happen overnight. Instead, the process required thousands of hours and a lot of hard work. She stressed that she was not alone on her mission. Her family, friends, and colleagues have all been dedicated to making this product evolve into what it is today. There is an element of risk taking when creating a product. Grateful to her husband, her initiative took a tremendous amount of time and money. There were sacrifices. "If anyone had said to me in 1989 that this is going to happen with this product - I would have looked at them like they were from Mars." Sometimes not knowing the bumpy road ahead gives us just enough hope to take one more turn, then another. As a humble person, she admitted she feels shy when it comes to talking about her product because she did not create it to be in the spot light. Yet she believes in it so much that she has stepped forward to actively support its release.
What makes Gretchen tick? Why does she push forward so diligently and passionately in all her projects and interests? She shared that the learning process is so interesting for her that she just embraces it. "I have never been one to say ‘oh that is good enough' - I have always wanted to do the best I can with everything." This was evident even in 5th grade when the task was to collect milk cartons to build a tepee. She continued to acquire and clean milk cartons until she built a village. There was a home for everyone.
A role model for her is her mother, who was also professional flutist. Her roots are deeply planted in music and artistry so she understood that creating is what she would just naturally do. I shared with her that I tried to learn to play the flute, but I became very dizzy from all the blowing and had to put my head to the floor. She said that she became dizzy too, but she thought "Whooooo-this is great!". Perception is everything. She earned a Master of Music degree in Flute Performance.
How to Emulate this Wish-Doer
Through getting to know Gretchen, I found several highlights related to her accomplishments:
• She has a role model and people in her life who inspired her and helped her feel like her gifts were hers to have and to nurture.
• She ensures that she finds peace and enjoyment in many areas of life, despite her multitude of career responsibilities.
• She has the mentality that there has to be a better way - then she makes it happen.
• She knows all about delayed gratification. She waits for her flowers to grow. She doesn't give up on growing her vision.
• She accesses people in her life.
• She educates and advocates.
• She makes sacrifices and takes risks, while learning and making informed decisions.
• She builds relationships with key people and organizations.
• She steps outside of her comfort zone.
• There were highs; there were lows. She never quit during the low.
• She took leaps of faith when she felt like her vision was bigger than her ability.
• She had nothing but a wish and some spark. She is a wish-doer.
Maybe you see yourself somewhere in this story. Maybe Gretchen's story shed some light on the realities of accomplishments. Her Triumph Triangle (knowledge, perception, character) is fully engaged - her successes could not have happened with knowledge alone. It was her perception and character that helped her to make strong choices, to persist in her endeavours, and to strive for excellence. Thank you, Gretchen, for being so open and generous. You are an incredible inspiration.
Marnee Brick, MSc
Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of Speech Therapy
TinyEYE Therapy Services (Speech Therapy Telepractice)