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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rachel Hallmark

Happy anniversary to me!

While tomorrow is perhaps the "coolest" date for a long time (for those of us who enjoy numbers... 02-02-2020), today holds more significance for me. Another TWO though - the 2-year "anniversary" of the official beginning of my private practice (2/1/2018). 

In some ways, a completely contrived date. Nothing really happened on that day, other than I was officially "live." No patients seen. No claims submitted. But I was LIVE.  So now, here we are, 2 years later. 2020. Incredible.  [I am currently sitting on a tremendous "to-do" list, that doesn't ever seem to get any smaller no matter the hours I work - but I think its important to take the time to reflect on where I have come over these last 2 years] In February 2018, I saw 2 patients (the whole month). But I also started billing Medicare, and finalized the paperwork for Anthem billing to start the next month. I paid more money in malpractice than I made in collections; and I was transporting my "clinic" to and from each visit, which occurred in a local yoga studio, and then later in a PT office. I relied on other people - with dissimilar views and biases (and one with a tremendous 'tude!) - for the space to do my work. I drove long distances to promote my business and start monthly remote clinics to build my practice. I was deep into the process of securing my own clinic space, and finally signed my first lease to start May 1, 2018. My hourly "wage" worked out heavily into the red. But I felt so FREE, and hungry, and alive! I remember having a great time driving around finding office furniture and picking out paint colors - and thinking to myself, "this is actually part of my job right now! How interesting this part of my life is." 

2018 was what I now refer to as my "year of GROWTH." I started January with a wonderful week-long "Yoga Cleanse" that helped me to gain focus - and my intention for the year had been to find my "dharma" (life's purpose). By December 2018, I knew that I had done just that, but I had no idea how amazing it would feel. I was so fortunate to have found an amazing mentor to guide me on my newly chosen path (Dr. Peter Bower) - to steer my ship towards Michigan State University COM, where I was further honored to encounter one of the Osteopathic "greats" at my first introduction to the field (Dr. Fred Mitchell Jr), as well as many amazing faculty there (Dr. Carl Steele, Dr. Lisa DiStefano, the late Dr. Barbara Briner, Dr. Harriet Shaw, amongst many others). They changed my entire understanding of the human body I thought that I knew so well already. My head was fully scrambled in my first 5 day course, and then they set me free to try to find my footing again - but now with much better alignment! :) [I also had my 10-year-old sacral torsion/"piriformis syndrome" corrected by OMT! This stuff has been very powerful for me personally...] 

The downsides of that first year - that headfirst dive into the unknown... there were many. It was so scary. I made almost no money. It was very stressful. I worked a LOT of uncompensated hours, and we took out loans, and worried a lot. I had no idea what I was doing with the business side of my new business! I had to figure it all out as I went along - and that was some learning curve. One big mistake was my first office space, with a terrible landlord - which I discovered only after putting $1000 of renovations into a space I ended up leaving after only 8 months (and where I never even had a sign provided). Another mistake was my first attempt at hiring an office manager - who lasted 2 half-days, and then bailed by text message (telling me that I had made a mistake in hiring them - facepalm!).   Which is why no update was written for the 1 year anniversary, 2/1/2019. That day was spent cleaning/organizing in my NEW clinic space, that opened 2/4/2019 - after 3 weeks of renovations, during a time when business was booming but I was still working unassisted (unintentionally). On top of that, I had just returned from my 3rd course at MSUCOM, just 2 days prior. 

So by 1 year in... I had opened my 2nd clinic space of my very own (no partner) - and now up to 1350 sq ft, which would require additional bodies/healers to fill. I was seeing patients 4-5 full days per week, and still doing all the business-related aspects essentially alone - and finally hired my first (short term, part time) employee. I was credentialed with most insurances by then, and new patients coming in almost daily. I wouldn't have called that "success" yet - but it was so close I could taste it!  It always takes time to settle into a new "home" - and this one was no exception. Those first 6 months were filled with paint chips, furniture rearranging, and paperwork headaches. (Not to mention a flood from an old copper pipe 1 week into the lease!) 

NOW - 1 year into this lease - I am still hanging things on the walls, and finding "homes" for everything - but the pace has slowed tremendously. I can now look around and say - yes, this is my clinic, and I am proud of what I have built. 

And now - I have success!

After another big hiring "hiccup," I now have a dedicated full time "Office Manager," to allow me to focus on my medical practice. My clinic was briefly "full" in fall 2019, and I was unable to accept new patients. I am having to make harder choices on scheduling in order to protect myself and find some "work/life" balance (2019 was the "Year of Boundaries"). While I still don't know exactly what my 2019 income will work out to be, I am now the primary breadwinner in my family again (my husband is a teacher, so this is not a huge battle typically). 

And even better than all that - LOOK AT WHAT WE ARE DOING!  Blue Ridge Well Being is coming to fruition.

2 years ago, I was designing a logo with a kid's marker on printer paper....

1 year ago, my office was a big ol' mess! (after moving away from crazy neighbors) 

NOW - we have a beautiful space, with a sign! (shingle officially hung April 2019!); a repaired parking lot "bubble" (lol), a perfect handicapped-accessible ramp to our prime parking space, and lovely human and critter neighbors.

Now, we are a WE (of 4) - not just ME! 

WE offer Osteopathy, Massage therapy, Nutrition, Yoga.... 

We hosted a plant-based nutrition and mindfulness/yoga "reset" this January (instead of me signing up for one to be hosted by someone else!) 

We hosted a TMJ specialist (dentist) this week, as well as a fun holiday wellness event, and networking opportunities abound with Physical Therapists and other holistic providers in the Charlottesville area. 

I am SO PROUD of where we have come. Where I have come, certainly - but it has not been a journey I could have made alone. I am so grateful to those names above (especially Dr. Bower), but also to my husband, for trusting me (most of the time) to make wise decisions; to my family for supporting my efforts even when I haven't had enough time at home; to my own well-being providers, for helping me to find the meaning of true health and healing through this challenging process; and to my patients - for entrusting me with your stories, your bodies, and your health.

It is a tremendous privilege to be able to do the work that you feel you were put on this earth to do. 

I can't wait to see where this "year of CLARITY" takes us. 

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