I needed a day off but couldn’t take it. I had been in solo practice for 3 years and business was steady. I loved my job, my office and my patients but wanted some time for myself, some time with my wife and some time to write (my book, Life Medicine, was in the planning stages.) I wanted to take a half-day off in the middle of the week but did not have anyone to cover me. A regular day off would just make the rest of the week terrible as I tried to catch up. I could arrange coverage with other physicians for the occasional day off or vacation coverage but a regular day off seemed out of reach.
I thought about hiring a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician Assistant but I did not have either the business to pay someone a full-time salary or the space for someone to work in the office along side of me. I thought about trying to hire someone part-time but the same problems remained. Who would want to work only one half-day a week? Desperate, I reached out to a colleague to see if the Physician Assistant they employed might be available to cover one morning or afternoon a week. I received a sympathetic “No” as a response.
“I do know someone though,” my colleague said, “I have a neighbor who is a PA who has been out of work for a while. She might be interested.”
I figured I had nothing to lose so I made the call. The woman who answered the phone was very pleasant when I called. She had taken time off when her children were born and now that they were school-aged she was thinking about reentering the work force. She was a little leery about her skills after being out of work for 5 years but wanted to reestablish herself. I invited her in for an interview.
The day of the interview she called to cancel. One of her sons was sick with the stomach flu and she had no child care. “You can bring him with you to the interview if you like,” I told her, “I don’t mind.” She was pleasantly surprised at the offer and agreed to come in.
A few hours later she sat across from me in my office. Her 6 year-old son sat quietly on a blanket she had laid out on the floor, playing with toys while we talked about the job. She was interested in the opportunity but nervous about how everything would work out. “What do we have to lose?” I said,” if it doesn’t work out, we shake hands and part friends.” She liked that logic and accepted the position.
That was 11 years ago. Brandie Walton, the PA I hired is still with me. I remodeled the office two years ago and she now works full time. She has been the perfect PA, kind, gracious and knowledgeable. She has also become a friend, colleague and source of stability and encouragement to me and all of the employees. We share similar views on life, faith, and service to patients. We cannot imagine ever working with anyone else.
Since she started full time in January we have found ourselves reflecting back on how our journey together started and the path that we have walked these last 11 years. At the time I hired her neither one of us could have imagined how the practice and our professional relationship would grow. The initial decision we both made to trust one another and work together has been one of the smartest decisions we ever made. We have been truly blessed.
PS: An update on the little boy on the blanket- He left for college last week! His big step is a reminder of how much time has passed and the source of this reflection.