Making It Work: How Fairview Helps Sue be An Amazing Employee

Sue Maus is so much more than her wheelchair. She is a dynamic, talented 30-year Fairview Health Services employee who is valued for her expertise and passion. And that, according to Sue, is exactly how she is treated at Fairview.

Sue began her career here in 1985 at the Oxboro Clinic in Bloomington, eventually becoming a business analyst in IT, then a solutions strategist on the same team. But things changed in July 2000, when Sue was involved in a massive car accident, resulting in her paralysis. After more than 13 months, she recovered limited use of her arms and was able to use a powered wheelchair.

She was ready to come back to work—and she knew her workplace would support her.“I was never worried about it,” she says. “I knew what Fairview’s values are: If you have something to contribute and there’s a role that fits, you’re a part of the team. “I knew Fairview was committed to helping me return to work, whatever that meant.”

‘I follow her lead’

Beth Gohdes, Sue’s manager, says Fairview was more than happy to accommodate Sue to retain her as a passionate, outstanding employee. “We took our cues from Sue and her drive to get back to work. I mostly just follow her lead!” Beth says. “She talks about people she knows who really have a different perspective and attitude on their disabilities—more of an, ‘I give up, I’m so limited’ attitude, but she never believed that, so why on Earth would we believe that?”

Support from equipment to people

Multiple steps were taken to ensure Sue has the right equipment, training and support to continue being a high-functioning employee. Her desk space has elevated surfaces to accommodate the height of her wheelchair.

She uses the Dragon Naturally Speaking program to vocally type and control her computer, and she types and controls her special rollerball mouse with a mouth stick. (“I can type faster than my husband!” she says.) Also, knee-high “kick bars” were installed where she works, which Sue can bump with her wheelchair to automatically open the doors. The building has “hot and cold spots,” and regulating body temperature is difficult for people with paralysis. So, during a recent cold snap, the building manager worked with Sue to figure out how to keep her cubicle area warmer.  “None of the accommodations we made were in vain—she uses every one of them every day,” Beth says.

And her team has supported her. “Our team happy hours are planned a little more carefully now. We don’t go to people’s houses; we go to places that are accessible, and they’re planned for a time when she can get there,” Beth says. “She works from home whenever she needs to. She has such a great personality, it’s not a problem for her to be mostly on the phone but, for things that we agree are really important, we figure out a way to get her there in person. She’s an amazing, upbeat person, so we work with her.”

‘Everybody is dealing with something’

Sue says the most valuable assistance she receives is fellowship with her co-workers.“In meetings, people share their handouts with me and flip them so I can follow along,” she says. “If I need a cup of coffee and someone’s headed in that direction, they’ll grab it for me.  If they hear a loud noise from my cube, they’ll come running.” She adds, “I am so honored to work with so many big-hearted, hard-working, ethical people who, at the end of the day, just want to make Fairview better. I have so many friends around the organization, it’s amazing.

”Sue is determined to keep a positive attitude about her paralysis, and says Fairview’s core values help keep her focused at work and at home. “I’m not a different person than I was before; I’m really not, and I think people have discovered that,” she says.“One positive outcome is knowing how quickly life can change gives you a perspective on what really matters. Things that intimidated you before really don’t anymore.”She adds, “It’s freeing to know that everybody is dealing with something. Mine’s just more visible.”

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