by Alisa Booze-Troestchel, Clinic Volunteer
It’s not about money. It’s about people. It’s about living a balanced life. Stacey Shepherd lost a lot of annual income on Oct. 4 when she began work at the Fauquier Free Clinic. But, she gained satisfaction in her roles as a physician’s assistant and as wife and mom to two girls, seven and four years old.
- Eleven-hour days at a doctor’s office in Centreville kept Shepherd away from her family. She often interacted with patients who left her feeling not valued. But folks at the Clinic are different.
“It’s hard not to enjoy taking care of this patient population,” Shepherd says. The petite woman with long brown hair and a heart-shaped face tells a story about a woman she’d seen the previous night. Even though she works both days the Clinic is open, she continues her nine years of volunteering at the Thursday night walk-in clinic.
She related a story about a recent patient encounter as an example of the kind of work she finds rewarding. This patient’s medical history was as complex as her lifestyle. A hospital had recently released her from treatment. She had no home and lived at the shelter.
The woman did have a long list of medications, and a short supply of money. Thinking out loud, she wondered which were the most critical, and which she could do without.
Tears flowed down the woman’s cheeks when Shepherd told her about the Clinic’s prescription assistance. Patients pay two dollars per medication that the Clinic stocks. They pay nothing for other medicines at a local pharmacy.
Then Shepherd told her patient that she was referring her to a specialist for treatment. As is typical for Clinic patients, she would likely receive an initial visit free of charge. If ongoing care is necessary, the patient and specialist discuss the fees.
“She was overwhelmed,” Shepherd observed.
When Shepherd was a teenager, she wanted to be an athletic trainer. An unhappy internship during her senior year of high school showed that she needed to find a different career path.
What Shepherd knew is that she wanted children. She did not want to extend her studies into her thirties, and rack up a heavy debt load that some doctors accumulate. Shadowing a physician’s assistant revealed her road to take.
“Physician assistant’s school is four years of medical school crammed into two,” says Shepherd. Students are in the classroom during the first year, and do clinical rotations in the second.
Being a physician’s assistant at the Clinic fits with what’s important to Shepherd.
“It’s about quality of life,” says Shepherd. “My first priority is to be a good wife and a good mother.”
Every night at the dinner table, each person in Shepherd’s family names one thing for which she or he is grateful. A few weeks into her employment at the Clinic, both her husband and oldest daughter said they’re just glad she’s home every night for dinner.