Our practice specializes in the care of those with all facets of diseases of the liver and digestive tract. Liver disease patients, as a whole, are sicker than most. The proper functioning of the liver is vital to a persons overall state of wellness. Chronic liver disease, in the form of viral hepatitis (such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C), autoimmune hepatitis, fatty liver related to obesity and metabolic syndrome, hereditary disorders such as Wilson’s disease (excess copper), hereditary hemochromatosis (iron overload state), Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, Sclerosing Cholangitis, alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, and portal hypertension are all multi-organ conditions, and lead to progressive organ failure, and the potential for premature death. While this is a mouthful, the truth is that liver disease is no laughing matter, and needs to be taken very seriously. Liver patients are demanding. They require a lot of care, education about their condition and the required care, and most importantly, compassion. Facing the spectre of a life threatening illness is stressful for all involved.
Caring for this group of patients requires that I surround myself by the most capable staff possible. We have been making use of mid-level providers (both Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners) to implement the medical and surgical care plans designed for them. It would be impossible for me to provide the care we do without their assistance. The mid-levels at Liver Specialists of Texas are superb professionals, well trained, intuitive, patient centered, and in-tune with the emotional state of the patient and their family.
Over the past 2 months, we have hired 5 new staff members, all recent college graduates from Duke University and University of Texas-Austin. These five young ladies have degrees in Psychology/Human Development, Nutrition, Evolutionary Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, with minors in Spanish, and Music. Academically brilliant, they have aspirations for Medical School, and one a Doctorate in Psychology. The positions they hold within the office include Medical Assistants, Scheduling, Patient Education and Public Outreach, and Front Desk/Reception. All of them are woefully overqualified for these positions. Seeking a two-year break from their educational plan, they are looking for real-world experience, to better prepare them for the next way station in their life-journey.
Hiring this caliber of staff is eye opening for me, rest of the staff, and our patients. Their academic training allows them to grasp new concepts faster, making them quick learners. They have the capacity to think outside the proverbial box, and contribute to the operations of the practice like I have never seen before. They have a keen grasp of new technology and social media, are well versed in teamwork, and have an eagerness to learn and take on new tasks. Coming from the rigorous academic challenges of Duke and UT-Austin, their brains are hard-wired differently than other applicants that I interviewed for their positions. Somewhat older individuals, having completed their formal education decades earlier, the applicants I met with had no real desire to advance themselves, challenge the status quo, or cultivate their creative juices for the betterment of the patients we serve and care for.
Millennials by birth, they are being exposed to an environment run by Baby Boomers. We have had to enlighten them to maximizing the positive features of their generation (civic mindedness,multitaskers, connectivity, tech-savvy, and passion), and work on certain less favorable features such as reduced attention spans, obsessing with the online world, constant use of their cellphone, and the need for immediate gratification.
My desire to have the most capable staff available for these complex cases has come closer to reality with the addition of the five recent college graduates. Working side-by-side with our established staff has allowed for continued mentoring. In the medical office staff/clinic environment, it is unheard of to have such overly competent staff. With what we have all experienced in just a few short months, I will never be able to return to the norms of the standard office environment. Once this group graduates to bigger and better opportunities, I hope to develop a pipeline of future employees from Duke University and University of Texas, allowing our patients to be cared for by a group of overqualified, passionate, forward-thinking, quick learning, twenty something year old staff.