By Rachel Madison
Kaela and Jason Thurman aren’t sure at what point their conversations about opening a walk-in clinic in Liberty Hill turned from simple talk into action, but they’re glad they did.
After numerous prayers, encouragement from family and friends, and a desire to work in the town they lived in, the Thurmans found, remodeled and opened the Care First Walk-in Clinic all in a five-month period.
“[A walk-in clinic] was not a service that was readily available here in town,” said Kaela Thurman, co-owner of the clinic and family nurse practitioner. “We wanted to provide people with another option that’s closer to home. These days it can be hard to get an appointment even if you have a primary care physician. After prayer and listening to God’s guidance and taking a leap of faith, we decided to open a clinic.”
The clinic, which officially opened Nov. 27, was previously an orthodontic office. After minimal remodeling, it now includes two exam rooms in addition to a reception area and waiting room. The waiting room showcases local artists’ paintings, boasts a coffee and tea bar for patients, and displays what the Thurmans call a “Liberty Hill’s got talent” case, which highlights the achievements of local residents.
“We wanted to provide medical care with a warm and inviting atmosphere, where patients can relax before being seen,” Kaela Thurman said.
Kaela Thurman graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and later went on to earn her master’s degree in nursing at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She is also certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. She worked as an emergency room nurse for 10 years at St. David’s Round Rock, where she served as a nursing supervisor and nursing educator. Her nurse practitioner experience comes from working for Samaritan Health Ministries, where she specialized in chronic care and women’s health.
“I got to the point as a nurse where I had to decide where I wanted my career to go,” Kaela Thurman said. “My director [at St. David’s] wanted me to be the next director of the ER, but I didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do. I went back to school and instead of going back for hospital administration, I went back to become a nurse practitioner. I love clinical work. I just enjoy being there for people. In a walk-in setting, it’s a vulnerable area for people and I am passionate about providing quality healthcare.”
Jason Thurman, co-owner of the clinic and firefighter and emergency medical technician (EMT) for Leander Fire Department, is currently working at the clinic alongside his wife on his days off, helping to check in patients and take their vitals before being seen.
Registered nurses Kathi Shamard and Janie Galaviz round out the staff at Care First.
“[These] two nurses raised me from a baby nurse and are now working here with me,” Kaela Thurman said. “Between the two of them they have over 60 years of nursing experience. Their experience here is invaluable to me.”
Clinic visits start at $75 and include an exam, diagnosis and written prescriptions. Any additional services are added on. Care First can provide care to anyone over the age of 12 months, including treating minor illnesses and injuries and providing preventative health care services like physicals and well woman exams. If a patient needs a higher level of care, referrals to area specialists will be provided.
“We can even do procedures like stitches and staples, and will provide some primary care services, particularly for those who [are in good general health],” Kaela Thurman said. “If you have a stable chronic condition, like hypertension or thyroid disease, I’ll treat that. We don’t have x-ray on site, but we can order an x-ray and have that done as well.”
While Care First doesn’t currently accept insurance, Kaela Thurman said the clinic is waiting to be approved to be able to accept most major carriers. That approval should come in January, she said.
“Right now it’s all fee-for-service,” she said. “We’re doing our best to make pricing simple and transparent. There are no hidden fees. You pay the price that’s listed and that’s it. And people can submit their bill to insurance for reimbursement until our clinic becomes approved for insurance.”
Kaela Thurman has aggressive goals for the future of her clinic, one of which is being able to grow into a place that’s open every day of the week with extended hours and a nurse triage line.
“Right now we can’t do that, but we plan to grow and eventually have another location,” she said. “We also hope to be able to provide access to more specialties locally. We’re hoping that eventually we’ll have a group of nurse practitioners with multiple specialties available.”
While their goals are in mind for the future, for now, the Thurmans are focusing on providing quality care and accessibility.
“I want patients to feel like we’re accessible,” Kaela Thurman said. “I believe in calling patients to check on them and see how they are doing and being available for questions. I want that to be the way we practice even as we grow. I have felt as a consumer that there’s a lot of red tape in getting to your doctor, and I don’t want to do that.”
Care First Walk-In Clinic is located at 12701 W. State Hwy. 29, Ste. 5 in Liberty Hill. Hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The clinic is closed Wednesdays and Sundays. For more information, visit www.carefirstclinic.com.