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Breathing room

North Liberty Family Health Centre moves, expands
Amber Sheeley PA-C and Drs. Jami Maxson, Natalie Hempy, Lisa Johnson and Sarah von Harz stand outside the new North Liberty Family Health Centre location at 420 Community Dr. (photo by Shianne Fisher)

NORTH LIBERTY– Care providers, responsible for making their patients happy and healthy, should be happy and healthy themselves, right?
The staff at North Liberty Family Health Centre (NLFHC) thought so. After 21 years at its location on West Cherry Street, owners of the independent practice decided to move into a space with, literally, a little more legroom.
“We just had staff members sitting on top of one another,” said Dr. Natalie (Tally) Hempy. “We were all getting carpal tunnel. We were always twisting to look at each other and our patients.”
NLFHC has been at its new location, 420 Community Dr –across from the Oasis Car Wash, for about a month, and staff members are loving it, said Dr. Lisa Johnson.
“The space is definitely bigger,” she said. “But also the distribution of space is different such that it allows us to have better ergonomics and space for our employees as well as space for patients.”
Hempy said one of the greatest benefits of the move was the space to set their personal computers– crucial to keeping up with patient information in an increasingly digital world– in every exam room.
And, they only had to move a block away into a building that sat empty for five years after being occupied by several restaurants.
“We definitely wanted to stay central in town,” said Johnson. “That’s a priority of ours, really being an active part of the community.”
She noted the proximity to the North Liberty Recreation Center and library, one of the organizations the clinic regularly donates to. They have also sponsored programs such as Healthy Moves, the North Liberty Fire Department and North Liberty Community Pantry.
The clinic gained 1,000 square feet in the move, as well as two exam rooms, putting the total at 11, and additional office space. Construction– a “complete gutting,” Johnson said – began in February and moved quickly, adding on to the building to the north and toward the car wash.
“We’re really happy,” said Johnson, who joined the clinic in 2004.
She added, at the time, there are no plans to hire on more staff but the new space makes it a possibility for the future. There are currently 20 total employees, including five professional staff and seven medical assistants and nurses.
“We don’t tend to have a lot of turnover,” she said. “That consistency is something we really pride ourselves on. We really try to make our care personal and take care of our patients and meet their needs as best as we can.”
They’ve been meeting those needs since 1987, when North Liberty’s population was less than 3,000. In the nearly 30 years the clinic has operated, the population has quintupled; a special census, last fall, clocked the city in at 18,228.
NLFHC has done its best to keep up, Johnson said, counting this move.
“I think our patient population has continued to grow,” she said. “We were hoping with the move to be able to continue to serve more patients and serve the community a little bit better that way.”
In addition to Johnson and Hempy, Drs. Jami Maxson and Sarah von Harz, as well as Amber Sheeley PA-C, serve the clinic’s 10,000 active patients. Among the five, their interests include pediatrics, women’s health, sports medicine and preventative medicine.
“Really, we take care of (everyone), from brand new to elderly individuals,” said Johnson. “We help families see the full gamut of their health issues.”
That includes treating acute and chronic conditions, as well as general wellness check-ups.
And it’s a completely independent operation.
“As more and more clinics get bought out by big hospital centers, we’re sort of a dying breed,” said Johnson. “But we like to be in control of our schedules and do what we think is best for our patients and practice and employees.”
The North Liberty Family Health Centre will host an open house at 420 Community Dr., on Tuesday, Aug. 9, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Staff will be on hand to show community members the new space with snacks and refreshments provided.
The office operates Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. More information is available at the clinic’s website regarding the office and its services, www.nlfhc.com.