Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jared gets a new job--again! No foolin'!

Okay, so here’s the long and the short of it. This is REALLY hard to put in a nutshell, or two or three or nine. Actually, Jared could probably do it in one sentence, but that would be completely unsatisfying to me, leaving waaaay too many questions unanswered. And now you know the secret to why I cannot keep a journal. You've been warned.

Starting any kind of business or service from the ground up takes time. Jared knows that.  He owned and operated his own massage therapy business sixteen years ago and it took time and patience to build up his clientele.

When Jared accepted the job in Madisonville, TX it was the complete opposite of what we were hoping for. #1) It was occupational medicine (occ med) entailing basically DOT/employment physicals, drug screenings, and on-the-job injuries. #2) Working in Madisonville would require a 100 mile daily commute for Jared because we live in south College Station.  *sigh*  BUT—to soften the blow of the less desirable things, we had 60,000 tax-free reasons to make that sacrifice for 2-3 years. So we hunkered down and hoped for the best.

Even with a 50 mile drive each way, Jared would leave at 6:30am to drop Jake off at seminary and had plenty of time before the office opened at 8am. He usually wrapped up around 4:30pm and was able to back in our area around 5:30pm and could pick up kids from piano or other school activities. So even though his commute “stunk,” he was home earlier than when he worked a regular day in Oregon and it worked out well. For me.

For Jared, it was a different story. He and Celeste, the St. Joseph (STJ) marketing director, reached out on several occasions to the surrounding businesses to generate a working relationship with the local employers in the area. On December 5, 2014, Jared was interviewed by a local news station and appeared on the 10 o’clock news to announce the services his clinic would offer. However, by the end of December, Jared was seeing no more than 8 patients…a week!! It was more than he had been seeing in September, but not the 30 a week the hospital had been dreaming of. It was painful mentally and professionally to Jared as a medical provider who is used to seeing 25-30 patients in an 8 hour day. But he continued to hang on because loan repayment was tied to this job.

Speaking of loan repayment--before the holidays, we had discovered that though this job was advertised to offer $60,000 (tax free) toward our student loans for a two-year commitment, the information from the National Health Service Corps web site (the organization that awards the repayment) showed the maximum pay out amount as $50,000. We tried not to quibble over $10K. $50,000 is still a lot of money!

Then things really started to shift in January with two major catalysts. #1) The Madison hospital administrator, wanting to generate more income for his small hospital, decided to bring in two specialists--an orthopedic surgeon for a half day every other week and an OB/GYN 1 day a week to offer more services to the small town of Madisonville. Definitely a good idea, if it weren’t for the fact that the office space they’d be using was the occ med clinic office. Right. So that means that when the specialists are “in town,” Jared, the occ med provider, would have to relocate himself to another part of the hospital or just not work, while the other doctors used his space. Jared’s not a territorial guy. But the question he felt he needed to ask was this: “Are we going to build up the occ med clinic, or not?” I think it goes without saying that, professionally, this wouldn’t be good for his clinic. They had just advertised on the news where they would be and when and just as they were starting to gain a tiny bit of momentum, they were not going to be as accessible. It would only take one patient to walk-in with an injury and not be able to find Jared, for it to get back to the employer that going to the new occ med clinic was a waste of time. This was very frustrating to Jared, who And felt like this was so many steps backwards. But he didn’t want to be viewed as inflexible or difficult to work with. He said he was willing to share the space (that he was in first) but that very specific guidelines and protocols needed to be in place so that all parties involved were on the same page.

While they were thus hashing out the aforementioned details of the occupancy of the occ med clinic, the second catalyst happened when Jared’s medical assistant (MA) gave her two weeks notice. It had nothing to do with Jared--in fact, he’s the reason she stayed as long as she did. He was basically her only cheerleader. She had a very difficult job to do and it wasn’t a big surprise that she was leaving. She worked a couple days into her two weeks and then Jared got a text one evening from the MA saying she was not coming back.

So Jared was now without anyone to help in the occ med clinic. Jared found himself registering and rooming his few patients, which there was plenty of time for, but that’s beside the point. Jared is not trained to do this nor was he hired to do it. In a pinch, he’s roomed patients in Oregon by taking their weight, temperature and blood pressure. But that was family practice and this is occupational medicine which is wrapped up tight in papers, forms, documentation and hoops in which to jump through. Tina, the staffing/hiring gal, said she had someone who could fill in for a few weeks while they looked for a replacement MA and Tina even had some candidates already lined up—which was encouraging because it’s beyond difficult to staff those rural clinics. Jared was able to sit in on a few of the interviews. He had a patient he was seeing during one particular interview with a candidate Tina felt would be the best. Because time was of the essence, Tina went ahead with the interview and decided she was the one. Tina was all set to hire her and was just waiting for the upper-deck formality approval. Except it never came. The woman in charge of approving new hires said that when she looked at the occ med clinic, she decided there needed to be an increase in patient volume before approving the cost of hiring another MA. WHAT?????? She does realize that the MA being requested does not make two in the office, right? Jared needs AN MA. ONE. UNO. SINGULAR. Jared would love nothing more than to have more patient volume as well, but how does one do that when there isn’t even someone to run the office? Oi. Seriously. I get that prudence is needed—especially with a non-profit organization such as STJ. But, with all due respect, they kind of have it backwards. I don’t know much about business, but I’ve worked in a successful family practice clinic that Jared helped build and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that not staffing a clinic appropriately will hurt your business financially, more than help it. Not allowing an MA to be hired for the occ med clinic because of the cost is pretty ironic since you can’t grow a clinic without the necessary staff.

This was actually SO ridiculous, we laughed and were speechless for a bit. Even the cheapest doc I know from Oregon, had ONE medical assistant. She could never keep them because she was so cheap, but the doc at least knew she couldn’t run her office without one.

This move, or lack of it, sent Jared a pretty powerful message. If STJ wasn’t invested in the occ med clinic—denying appropriate staff to help generate more volume—then why should he be? It made him feel like he was on a sinking ship—50 miles from home—that he had to drive to every day, then sit on every day, by himself, doing nothing but sink a little lower with each painfully passing day.

I felt terrible sending Jared off to that sinking ship, alone, with no one to see or interact with. He’d have a string of 3 or 4 days where he saw no patients. To be brutally honest, for a non-profit organization so concerned about spending money on one MA, I am shocked they would continuously pay Jared’s salary when, based on his circumstances, was doing a whole lot of nothing. It almost felt dishonest. But Jared reminded me that someone up at the top really wanted an occ med clinic in Madisonville. Clearly it’s not the woman in charge of approving new hires—which also makes me wonder…don’t these two people talk? For the first time in eight years, Jared’s job satisfaction reached an all-time low.

Remember how I felt this underlying current of peace about our decision to take this job and move our family here? Well, despite the circumstances Jared found himself in, I still felt it. Somehow, it would be okay.

During the turmoil of no MA and with his loan repayment application already submitted, a position in another rural clinic in Brenham (Family practice/Express Care) opened up internally. Jared’s actually filled in there a couple times and had just been there on Valentine’s Day. Jared felt that his PA liaison, Kim, and Tina would ask him if he wanted to shift over there. I asked him if he would. He said no. He didn’t want to drive another 100 miles a day (in the opposite, southwest direction) without loan repayment. I didn’t blame him.

But a few days later, at the end of February, Jared had another meeting with all of his immediate bosses and supervisors (about 6 of them) who are involved with him, the occ med clinic, and outlying rural clinics. They talked about many things. To their credit, they knew how much Jared wanted loan repayment and that he’d have to stay in Madisonville to get it. But Jared had shared with them before that this full-time occ med clinic isn’t viable on its own due to the lack of need in the area. Jared said they would need to combine it with a primary care or express care model to supplement volume in order for it to be sustainable. Jared had already submitted his loan repayment application though and if awarded, he would HAVE to work up there 40 hours a week to honor his contract and Jared agreed with the Madison hospital administrator, that there isn’t even part-time work up there right now, let alone full-time work. With that said, the group of bosses said they’d find a way to keep him in Madisonville if he received the loan repayment award.

Jared shared the events of that meeting with me on our way to get some camping supplies for Cooper one evening. For the past couple months, especially, I’d mostly just been a cheerleader, telling Jared “You’re awesome!” “Thanks for making that long drive to and from Madisonville every day!” “We’re so blessed to have a job—thanks for being a great provider for our family!” etc. and letting him share his frustrations. But it became clear that I needed to speak up.

At that point, we had been doubling our fast offerings for a whole year. The first six months, it was for extra help in selling our home, securing a job, finding new and temporary housing, the move, etc. But since September, we’ve been doubling our fast offerings to help us secure that much desired loan repayment award. Jared almost didn’t go to PA school because he didn’t want to accrue that much debt. But I’m so glad we did. We’re better off financially even with the student loans and he’s been able to bless so many people because of these skills. The Lord knows our deep desire to get out from under these loans as fast as possible. We want to serve a mission together some day and all of our savings is wrapped up in our monthly “summer home” payment. So surely these desires qualify as righteous ones and I know that with God all things are possible. We’ve been fasting for this purpose for months and our children have even joined us a couple times. The occ med clinic Jared works at has a high score rating and the chances of receiving loan repayment are much better than most. But we knew it wasn’t a 100% guarantee. In the meantime, I’ve been pleading with the Lord. We’ve done everything we could think of, in our power, to do our part in securing the blessing of loan repayment. We uprooted our comfortable family after a decade of living in Oregon and drug them halfway across the country and further south. Jared took a $30,000 annual pay cut for a job in medicine he was not interested in with a commute he was not looking forward to. We attend the temple regularly. We serve as best we can in our church callings. We strive to teach our children righteous principles. We pay our tithing and for added measure, to show we would rather put others’ temporal needs before our own, we’ve doubled our fast offerings.

I won’t lie—I’ve thought about that extra money we’ve used for fast offerings a few times. It would have been so very handy, in so many instances with a big move and new home. But we want the Lord to know we mean serious business about the loan repayment and that we were willing to consecrate money we could have used for something better (for us and others). Additionally, we know the blessings of doubling your fast offerings far outweigh whatever sacrifice was required. So, really, it’s a win-win on our end. Choosing to double our fast offerings was also important to us because if the loan repayment didn’t come through, we could stand strong and say—at least we did everything we could and we have no regrets. The loan repayment was SO important to us. It was the reason we came to Texas.

But sitting in the car, that particular evening, with my sweet husband who just wanted to work and not feel like he was wasting away professionally, I decided I needed to tell him something. Something I never would have dreamed would come from my frugal, CFO mouth.

“Honey, forget the loan repayment. You just need to get out of there. It’s not worth the frustration, the time, the gas to drive and losing your skills.” It was professional atrophy for Jared to be in Madisonville doing nothing. Sure it was maddening mentally, but losing his skills would be professional torture. I tried to assure Jared that the loan repayment money was just that—money. Furthermore, with the recent events of the past six to eight weeks, it was at a cost I didn’t feel was worth the price.

I told Jared my biggest fear wasn’t that he’d NOT get the loan repayment. It was that he would and then he’d have to stay in Madisonville. What if, six, nine or twelve months down the road, STJ finally realized that there really wasn’t enough full-time work for him in relation to his salary and they moved him out of Madisonville before his two-year contract was up?? If that happened, one of two things would take place. #1) Jared would have to leave his job with STJ and Texas (without us) and work at another rural clinic somewhere in the United States with the same score as his clinic until his contract was up. That would require a family separation and having to support Jared financially on top of our regular monthly obligations here. #2) Jared would have to pay the $50,000 back (that would have already been sent to the financial institutions holding the loans) AND we would be required to pay a $7500 monthly penalty fee until the term of his contract had been fulfilled. Either option would crush us financially to say the least. If Jared was given the repayment award and accepted it, I’d be a major stress-fest for two years! Jared expressed this perfectly earlier in the month when he said, “I can’t plan my future on a bunch of ifs and maybes.”

It’s so interesting to me that, at the end of February, the $50,000 didn’t have the pull on me like it did just a couple months before. I know every job has its ups and downs, but Jared was stuck in the middle of the hospital administrator where he worked and the hospital organization he was employed by. He had to put out fires when he had an MA, he had been yanked in one direction after another and every time he thought the clinic took a step forward, it seemed like they took several back. This was more than just a bump in the road—this was more like fork in the road. Jared didn’t want to leave St. Joseph and find work somewhere else. He likes the organization and what they stand for. He likes the long-term stability it offers. If nothing else, he’s loyal. Jared’s immediate supervisors had already told him in their recent meeting that having him in Madisonville was like having their All-Star player on the bench. They know how good and dependable he is. He’s on the high end of their top experienced mid-level providers in the organization. When doctors started dropping like flies this past fall due to influenza, they were calling Jared, asking him to leave Madisonville (which was a treat for him!) and fill in for other providers. He always jumped in to help, even on the weekends, when they needed coverage. And every time he’s there, the girls at the office ask, hopefully, “Can we keep him??” Jared is efficient and personable. With his experience in family practice and urgent care, he knows how to stay on schedule. He’s faster than several of their new doctors. Everybody loves Jared!

They’re lucky Jared is so laid back because if they had anyone else to work the occ med clinic, they would have quit a long time ago. But Jared stuck with it for six months. Half a year. Long enough to do all the marketing that can be done, to be available five days a week, all day, for patients needing his services. There just isn’t the demand for occ med right now. So Jared needed to make a choice.

Jared was concerned about walking away from the full-loan repayment opportunity, even though it wasn’t guaranteed. He wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do—especially after all we did to get here. But he said he had crunched some numbers and shared with me that if he worked at an urgent care [they are called urgent cares in Oregon and they are express cares here, but  I can’t seem to break the habit of saying “urgent care”] and could work an additional 15 hours a month, it would bring in an extra $11,000 for us every year! And those providers working in express care get the first jump at extra shifts. Jared’s kind of been the back-up, back-up guy for those available shifts. I was floored! So we were still losing money by being in Madisonville and I was convinced even more that we needed to let the loan repayment go.

Jared’s other hesitation stemmed from not wanting to quit something he started. I was so touched by this. But I told him it’s not quitting when the other player walks away. It is impossible for you to grow Madisonville when you aren’t properly equipped or supported. They changed the game so it doesn’t count.

After our discussion that night, Jared decided he would propose to his bosses that he could bounce around to the different express care clinics and fill in where there’s a need. Ultimately, he wants to be in urgent care with primary care as his second choice. Of course, it only added to his stress when after a few days and into the weekend no one returned his email or call.

Over that same weekend, Jared started to ponder more about Brenham. STJ has an immediate need to fill. It had been advertised for two weeks internally with no takers. If he took that job, it would save STJ time and money. They wouldn’t have to screen candidates or spend money to fly them out for on-site interviews. Nor would they have to wait for out-of-state candidates to get credentialed and certified, etc. He could start working there immediately. Yes, it’s still about 40 miles (45 minutes) each way. BUT…he’d be working the Express side of the clinic and those providers don’t work every day. So that would save US gas, time and money. And the best part, when he drives to work, he’d be driving to actually WORK…not just sit for a brutal eight hour day, alone. He had pretty much convinced himself to pursue the job in Brenham.

He finally called Tina and proposed this option to her early that next week. Kim called Jared a couple days later and told him to apply for the Brenham position. A couple days after that in the middle of March, Jared had an interview with one of the head hauncho guys. He told Jared that the doctor in Brenham was so impressed with Jared when he was there on Valentine’s day (whom he only saw for about 10 minutes) that she wrote a letter to Jared’s superiors, telling STJ how great Jared was and what an incredible asset he’d be at their clinic. This administrator wanted to make sure it was Jared’s idea to go to Brenham. Jared assured him it was and repeated  that while occ med could work within a family practice or express care model, it wasn’t currently sustainable for full-time and he just wanted to work.

The man was fine with that and said they would need a time commitment from Jared. It’s no secret Jared is vying to be in the Navasota clinic which is only 20 minutes from our home where he interviewed last March. Jared understood and respects that they need more than short-term coverage in these rural clinics. Jared told him he would commit for two years—the same amount of time he would have been in Madisonville anyway.

So the job change was approved. He starts Monday, April 6th. His last day in Madisonville was Friday, March 27th. A letter has already been sent out stating Madisonville no longer has full-time occ med available as they had hoped. They do want someone up there one day a month though. They asked Jared of course. It would be an extra shift and possibly include mileage reimbursement, as well, but they would need Jared on a Monday and he works Mondays, so it appears Jared no longer has ties to Madisonville.

The gal doing Jared’s paperwork for the job change wanted to verify Jared’s time commitment in Brenham. He said he’d give two years. She said with that kind of a commitment, she’d put in a request for a “retention bonus” of $10,000. WHAT???? We had no idea there was such a thing and of THAT amount! We were flabbergasted! It’s certainly not $50,000 tax free, but “ironically” enough, that money fills one of our first short-term financial goals that we can now “check!” off our list. It is a huge, totally unexpected blessing!

The new job isn’t perfect but it’s much better than it was. First of all, Jared will actually work!! He will work on the urgent (express) care side. His schedule is opposite the other PA. He works EVERY Monday and Wednesday (which means FHE will move to Tuesday and I’m going to need help transporting my boys to and from Young Men on Wednesdays…) He has EVERY Tuesday and Thursday OFF. Holy Schnikey!! I can’t even begin to imagine the glorious options that will come with that. And he works EVERY OTHER weekend (F, Sa, Su). So—the worst part of the job is that he has to work every other Sunday. It’s super stinky on many levels. We’ve been blessed to avoid working on Sundays ever since he started as a PA, but we just can’t avoid the fact that he’s in a profession where working on Sundays is sometimes required. We’re hopeful this could change in the future.

So looking at the schedule—at the most, he will work 4 days in a row (F, Sa, Su, M) but on the flip side, at the most he’ll have 4 days OFF in a row (Th, F, Sa, Su). Mondays through Fridays are 12 hour shifts. But Saturday and Sunday he only works til 4pm so he’ll be home around 5 or 5:30, keeping those evenings free for date night or Sunday meetings/firesides/home teaching. Those days off will be SO awesome in the summer! All told, he only works 14 days out of 28. Not a bad little gig. This new schedule will save us money and gas because he’ll be driving to Brenham less and it also opens up some really great opportunities for our family. And no, there’s no loan repayment in Brenham.  But because of his schedule, Jared is now free to work a T/Th or F that he has off, which will help us reach that goal of 15 extra hours (or more) a month as a way to increase our savings.

We’ve already decided that any extra income is mostly going into retirement. We had been married almost 10 years before Jared was employed as a PA. So we’re a little behind people our age and have some ground to make up when it comes to retirement savings. [Although I just heard on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News that in 2013, 47% of Americans saved NOTHING out of their paychecks. That’s just CRAZY talk!! What are these people THINKING???]

Someone may argue we should put all that extra money we make into our student loan debt. The only problem is—there is about $110,000. There is very little interest on these loans and we can pay our monthly obligation. Trying to pay them off early on our own would basically take forever and would use up every last penny of our savings. The extra income would work for us better, if we used it to max out our ROTH IRAs each year because time is our friend when it comes to savings. Even IF we got the $50,000 in loan repayment, we’d still have around $60,000 left to pay off ourselves, which would take 6-7 more years, perhaps.

That’s when I realized that the Lord had still provided a way for us to fulfill our righteous desire to be able to save money for a mission when we retire. We had just figured the only way for us to start saving would be to pay off our debt as fast as we could and then start saving—making the loan repayment a big part of that plan. But building up our retirement with Jared generating more income with “extra” work days, works even better!! In the long run, we’ll be able to save more and a whole lot sooner!

This has been a very enlightening process for us. I have to wonder if, when we announced to our friends in Oregon that we were moving to take a loan repayment job because we felt peace with our decision to do so, the Lord looked down on us and smiled saying, “Not really, but you’ll see…”

Our faith isn’t in outcomes. We doubled our fast offerings hoping for loan repayment, “but if not…” (Daniel 3:17-18), we would still be faithful and accept what is. We trust the Lord’s plan, which is usually way better than our original play anyway, so it’s all good!

**If Jared had blogged about this experience he would have said:

Things didn’t work out in Madisonville, so I took a job in Brenham.