Sharing the Care of Patients and Kids

EMU alumni Lois and Steve Alderfer
EMU alumni Lois and Steve Alderfer (Photo courtesy of The Virginia Legacy, University of Virginia School of Nursing)

Lois and Steve Alderfer are accustomed to sharing.

As students at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where they met and married, they discovered a shared Christian faith and a passion for helping others that they believed they could best fulfill by becoming nurses. (Both graduated in 1986.)

After earning their baccalaureate degrees, they chose U.Va. for graduate study. Although their interests differed – Steve’s was critical care and Lois’s medical- surgical nursing – they found ways to share the experience. “We took our core courses together,” Lois recalls.

The couple settled in rural Nelson County after graduation. Steve pursued hospital work, first in Richmond, and then at U.Va., while Lois returned to the School of Nursing for her family nurse practitioner (FNP) certificate. She performed her practicum at Blue Ridge Medical Center, a federally qualified community health center located near Lovingston in Nelson County.

‘Doctors were great teachers’

“I loved it,” she says. “The doctors were great teachers, the work was challenging, and it was a wonderful family environment. I didn’t want to leave.”

Fortunately, there was a position available to her at graduation. As Lois began full-time work, Steve returned to U.Va. for his FNP certificate, after staying home for a year with the couple’s first child and teaching nursing at EMU. He graduated and joined a private medical practice in Waynesboro.

But the Alderfers no longer found their situation satisfactory. Now parents to three young children, they were working full-time at locations far from their kids’ schools and activities.

They approached the Blue Ridge Medical Center to propose a job-sharing arrangement. “Lois would reduce her hours by 25 percent, and I would work half-time,” Steve recalls. “We would balance our hours so that one of us would always be available to our family.”


The proposal was a boon to the center managers, who quickly calculated that they would receive the equivalent of one-and-one-quarter FNPs through the arrangement. The only health care provider for miles in Nelson County, Blue Ridge provides routine and emergency family care and offers physical therapy, mental health, acupuncture, X-ray, medication assistance, and pharmacy services.

Its practitioners – five doctors in addition to Steve and Lois – treat approximately 8,000 patients annually, including those who pay according to a sliding scale or are insured by Medicare or Medicaid. Because it accepts all medical insurance, the center attracts a large clientele from Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and points beyond.

Job-sharing has worked well for the Alderfers. Currently in their fifth year under this arrangement, they are able to pursue areas of medical interest: Lois primarily provides OB/GYN, pediatric, and acute care, and Steve sees patients afflicted with chronic ailments in addition to providing acute care.

They serve as preceptors for School of Nursing nurse practitioner students assigned to Blue Ridge Medical Center. They also have been much more available to their children – accompanying them on field trips, coaching soccer, and studying Taekwondo.

Not surprisingly, they have found news ways to share this chapter in their lives. “We regularly consult each other for advice,” Steve says. “Few days go by when we don’t say to each other, ‘You know, I have this patient who…'”

Reprinted with permission of The Virginia Legacy, University of Virginia School of Nursing.” Visit for more information.