Fitting Podiatry Around Your Life

Author(s): 
By Lara M. Allman, DPM

I have been in private practice for five and a half years now. I have acquired three offices and I see patients from multiple nursing homes. Like most new practitioners, I had spent numerous hours the first few years figuring out how to “run” a practice. I was eager to build my practice and apply what I had worked so hard for over the last several years in school and residency.
During my first year out of residency, I spent a lot of time on marketing and trying to figure out the coding and billing. I spent my free time lecturing, visiting offices and going to just about every hospital function. In addition, I would go to certain lengths to accommodate patients. “Sure, I’ll meet you at the office Saturday morning” was a familiar refrain. My husband would always add a good hour to the time I told him I would be home (he still does).
Year two was the year of fine-tuning my management skills. This led to finding new staff, a new accountant and venturing into a billing company. I did not realize that learning to dictate between patients and not at the end of the day was an art form. I squeezed in finishing up an article or two from residency and decided to become the assistant coach for the high school gymnastics team.
Year three was the year for ABPS. Need I say more? The world around me stopped. It took months to figure out what cases to submit and then months to copy charts, photograph radiographs and review. I hoped the practice was running itself. It did and I survived.
In year four, I focused on streamlining the office. What can we do to make the day easier? We made new forms, redid old forms and even more forms for HIPAA. Are we compliant? I think I got it.
I was dedicated to the office and the profession. I would coordinate my schedule with my husband. I would spend late nights and weekends on the computer when he was at work and free time reading various articles and medical journals. I did know I was not the only workaholic doing business at odd hours, as noted by my accountant’s e-mails.
Then came the fifth year in practice. I was running between offices, hospitals, nursing homes and making a house call or two. I was preparing to advertise for an associate and then I learned that I was going to have a baby. The associate was now even more important. The race was on. Could I find someone to start in the next nine months?
Well, in short, no. The associate would not be available until July. I was due May 24. What truly hit home was my cell phone call to my husband after my doctor appointment, on the way to my office, about two weeks before my due date.
“Honey, the baby is still breach and he wants to schedule a C-section. I checked my calendar and I don’t have anything scheduled next Friday. Is that good for you?”
I did not realize what I had said until my husband was telling the story a week later about his workaholic wife “penciling the birth of our child into her schedule.”
What does 2004 have in store? I did only take three weeks for maternity leave but waking up in the morning now has new meaning. After five and a half years in practice, I now have a new boss and I will cater to her every whim. To wait for her smile and to wait for her to reach milestones each day brings me joy. I have reached a milestone of my own. The end of the workday comes a lot quicker and the day truly has not begun until I am back home with my husband, both of us playing with our daughter and watching her grow.
With my great staff and the addition of the associate doctor, things seem to be complete. The practice will still be busy and expanding but not at the expense of the family. Amazingly, the practice does not disappear after I leave the office at 5:30. We can always deal without one more form or one more office meeting and so what if I am behind two months on reading The Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery. I have learned to settle down and relax. Life is not all about work and it took little Morgan Lynn to make me realize it.

Dr. Allman is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. She has offices in Dubois, Ridgway and Clearfield, Pa.

Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate wtih the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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