In a hurry to get well

By Posted on Mar 25 2019 | By

Piedmont Urgent Care celebrates first anniversary

Back in 2004 Piedmont Family Practice in Warrenton spotted a trend. An increasing number of patients were looking for doctor appointments after hours and on weekends.

Often these were younger people with no family physician and did not want to spend three or four hours in an emergency room seeking treatment for the flu or a sprained back.

Like a moistened finger held high in the air trying to judge which way the breeze is blowing, this Warrenton medical practice “felt” a trend and launched Family Docs on Call. They offered evening and weekend hours out of their existing offices. The patients came.

On March 15, 2018, the service was rededicated into a separate section of its large medical building and named it Piedmont Urgent Care. It’s opened from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

The original concept of 14 years ago proved prescient. Today there are over 7,100 urgent care centers in the United States serving 160 million patients.

“We have three nurse practitioners down there with at least two working during the entire day,” said Dr. Christopher Ward a primary care physician and a member of the practice.  “Down there” is one floor below the main practice but with a separate entrance and its own patient parking. It’s located at 493 Blackwell Road, Suite 101B.

Today up to forty patients daily are served with no need for an appointment. A typical visit lasts about 45 minutes but can extend to over an hour depending on treatment and workload. A lot faster than a typical ER visit.

Ward, 49, is one of eight medical doctors and eight physician extenders at Piedmont Family Practice. “Physician extenders” are professionals who can treat, order tests, and prescribe drugs. By any measure, 16 medical professionals are a large practice. Include the three additional staff at the urgent care center and you have what equates to a small hospital.

“If they are falling behind or have a difficult diagnosis, we can walk down one floor to provide needed assistance,” said Ward.

Ward is married to another physician, Dr. Amy Trace, who works with him giving new meaning the term “family practice”. “We were married right after medical school in Ohio and were looking for a region without the cold winter months of the north.

“We visited Virginia and fell in love with Warrenton and joined this practice in 2001,” he said. The couple has two daughters.

Treatment and advice
Virtually any type of medical condition can walk through the door of an urgent care center. It’s essentially designed to treat semi-urgent situations. If the problem can wait, patients are encouraged to see their own doctor if they have one.

“There are some things you don’t want to wait on like a sinus infection, possible pneumonia, lacerations or strep throat. We are not set up to handle things like a heart attack, stroke or car accident. In those cases, a person should go directly to a hospital emergency room,” Ward said.

The patient demographic is broad but tends to slant toward a somewhat younger profile. “My guess is younger folks tend to not have a relationship with a doctor because they don’t have many chronic health problems.

“The biggest factor is probably the convenience of being able to just walk in and get treated,” he explained.

But at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to not have to visit a medical provider in the first place. How to achieve that? Listen to the good doctor’s counsel:

“First, take care of the things you can take care of, for both your physical and mental health. Both are so important to the overall quality of life. You can’t do anything about genetics and you can’t do much about what you are exposed to like workplace stressors,” he said.

What one can do is eat a healthy diet, avoid fast food, get regular exercise and cultivate healthy interpersonal relationships with both your family and friends. “Improving the quality of life makes our intervention so much less necessary. Take care of yourself like you take care of the material things you own.”

Good stuff but we’ve heard it all before. So, Ward drills down further. “We are a consumer-driven culture. Unfortunately, social media and cell phones have become ubiquitous in our lives. Our brains need to settle down and process things in a quieter meditative state.”

He recommends even simple outdoor walks as restorative. “We are surrounded by the constant pinging of digital devices it creates a stress factory. We never really get a chance to rest. That affects our immune system and raises stress hormone levels.”

He also believes the health care system itself needs some healing. “We are working toward a better model to keep people healthier for longer periods.”

The goals of both Piedmont Family Practice and Piedmont Urgent Care is to integrate with the community and enhance the health and wellbeing of Fauquier County residents and beyond.

“We are really trying to invest and become part of the community because most of us live here. We are raising our families here and we want to provide the same service that we want for our families.”

The ultimate message from Ward is that physicians and patients must work together to enhance lives. Shared responsibility will lead to a more joy-filled existence.

For a full description of its services, visit Piedmont Urgent Care at


Published in the March 20, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES