Tia Spears brings warm smile and empathetic personality to clinics in her role as a patient service representative.
On one of Tia Spears’ first days as a patient service representative at MU Health Care’s pediatric urology clinic, she asked a patient’s mother for her insurance card during check-in. The woman had forgotten her card and started to get frustrated. That’s when Spears used a smile and some kind words to turn a tense situation into a chance to bond with a person who was having a bad day.
“I told her, ‘We ask for these things because we want to make sure everything is good on your end so you don’t get hit with a surprise bill, but you can bring it to the next appointment. It’s no big deal,’” Spears said. “She ended up telling me what was going on in her life and her family and why she was so upset. Being able to talk through that with her helped me realize that this is what I’m here for.”
Spears, who grew up in Steele, a small town in the Missouri Bootheel, knew she wanted to become a doctor after watching videos posted by Sandra Lee, MD, a dermatologist in California who goes by an unforgettable nickname.
“I started watching ‘Dr. Pimple Popper’ on YouTube with my mom, and I thought, ‘I want to do that,’” Spears said with a laugh.
While she was a premed student studying health sciences at the University of Missouri, Spears landed a job at MU Health Care as a patient service representative (PSR). After graduating in May 2021, she decided to stay on as a PSR to gain more health care experience before applying to medical schools.
As a PSR, she is usually the first person to greet patients at a clinic. She checks them in, answers any questions and enters their information into the computer system. Spears works in the float pool, which means you won’t find her at the same clinic every day.
“I’m learning a lot, and being in the float pool, I’m going to different clinics and learning even more,” Spears said. “I’m a person who likes to try a little of everything. I’m definitely going to go back to school at some point, but I want to figure out where I can see myself working. Can I see myself in neurology or psychiatry? Working together with the doctors, nurses and patients in those clinics helps me know it’s not out of reach. Plus, I like being in Columbia.”
Tiffany Nash, the clinic float pool supervisor, praised Spears for her work ethic, ability to adapt to new environments and the empathy she has for patients.
“Tia brings that sense of peace, calm and comfort,” Nash said. “She worked at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site when I was a supervisor there, and if we were having a busy time or having some rough patients — because no one likes to have their nose swabbed — she was very much a diffuser. I’m so grateful to have her in the float pool, and I think she’s going to continue to do great things.”