Barbara Couch worked her last day on July 31 after 41 years with CHI Memorial. “I’m looking forward to my first week of retirement, just relaxing and doing whatever I want,” she says.
Couch started out as a receptionist for Dr. Ralph Greene in Ringgold in 1979. “My sister worked for Dr. Greene,” she says, “and it seemed like a good place.”
After a while, Couch worked her way up to billing clerk then insurance clerk and finally practice manager.
Some of the changes Couch says she’s seen over the years are the types of things people come in for and the way they pay. “In the early days, there was very little insurance. People paid cash. Office visits were often $10 or less. You also got workman’s comp cases.”
Couch says it was common in the early days to see people with things like lacerations from chainsaw mishaps, things that people go to walk-in clinics for today. One of the more common ailments seen in people today, she says, is the flu.
COVID-19 has brought about big changes, too, Couch says, including telehealth visits for things like medicine refills, getting results from tests or consulting to see if a visit is necessary. Couch says she sees telehealth as a permanent change, saving people the trouble of going into the office for things that can easily be handled by phone.
Couch says she’s close to the people she works with. “They’re like family. We get along, have disagreements, we work things out. We’ve grieved over losing two doctors to death over the years.”
Couch is also close to her four sisters and would like to do more with them over the next years. She has done a little traveling — to the Grand Canyon, Canada, New York City, but there are still places she’d like to see, including the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
If she was younger, says Couch, she could see herself moving to New York City.
“I like to cross-stitch and I like TV and movies,” says Couch. “And I like to spend time in my hot tub.”
One of Couch’s ambitious goals for retirement is to learn Spanish. “One of my sisters wants to learn Spanish, too, so we may do it together.”
After 41 years of working with doctors and patients, Couch has a little advice for both.
For doctors: Listen closely to your patients. Sometimes they don’t feel like you’re really hearing them.
For patients: Please be patient. Sometimes a doctor has to take extra time with someone, which means you have to wait a little longer. When it’s your turn, the doctor will take extra time with you, too, if necessary.