Your care team: Partnering for the good of patients

Navigating Healthcare

by Cole Laughter, BSN, FNP   and Eric Alford, MD

Aug 11, 2021

Have you ever decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment and been given the option to see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant sooner? Trusting a medical professional is an important decision. That’s why it is vital to understand how a care team operates, so you can rest easy knowing your health is in good hands.

Meet Eric Alford, MD, and Cole Laughter, BSN, FNP, a physician/nurse practitioner team that works together daily to provide personalized and quality primary care in Brenham. Here, they discuss what that means and why it matters for you.

What is a care team?

Dr. Alford: A care team includes a physician and staff caring for a group of patients. The care team is made up of a physician, advanced practice professionals, licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants and/or a clinical social workers. This is different from the traditional model, where the main relationship is solely between the patient and physician.

At Baylor Scott & White in Brenham, teamwork is the hallmark to success. This has led to the creation of care teams in our primary care departments. Team members work to the top of their licenses to offer better, more efficient and quality healthcare.  

Related: What is a primary care physician and why do I have a care team?

What is your role within your care team?

Dr. Alford: My role as a physician is to serve as the team leader and expert. If someone on my care team has a question or needs additional support, they’ll come to me. Because of my education and expertise, I typically work with patients who have more complex needs.

Cole: As a nurse practitioner, I completed advanced education and training, allowing me to evaluate, diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions—everything from the common cold to hypertension, diabetes and heart failure. I’m able to perform the appropriate exams, write prescriptions, order specialized tests and listen to my patients’ concerns.

How does working as a team provide better care to your patients?

Cole: This model gives patients better access to their healthcare team. Since I’ve worked with Dr. Alford, patient access has drastically improved. Some patients were waiting multiple weeks to see Dr. Alford with simple questions or complications. Now, those patients can schedule a same-day appointment with me.

Dr. Alford: This model provides patients with two important things.

  • Continuity of care: I always tell a patient that if they can’t see me, they can stay within our healthcare family by seeing Cole. We are our patients’ healthcare home. When a patient comes in, I can tell Cole, “You’ve never met this patient, but here is their history and what you need to know.” Cole and I see the same medical records. These are huge benefits for patients to see us instead of going to a freestanding clinic or hospital emergency department.
  • A family-oriented approach to care: Since I live and work in Brenham, I share this home with my patients. Because of this, I care for my friends and neighbors whom I see in the grocery store, in church and at the park. Our goal is to know our patients so well that they feel like family. We work as a healthcare team so that we can be efficient and effective in caring for our neighbors.

What is it like working together?

Cole: Because I work side by side with Dr. Alford, I can easily turn to him and ask, “I know you’ve seen this patient a lot. What do you think?” I’m able to ask him questions quickly. We are truly a team and come together for the greater good of each patient.

Dr. Alford: Cole and I work together as partners. Cole is quickly becoming one of my best friends because we work next to each other all day, every day. I provide Cole support and assistance as needed to improve overall care for the patient. He serves a vital role in our practice.

Don’t have a care team? Find a doctor near you today.

About the Author

Cole Laughter, BSN, FNP, is a nurse practitioner at Baylor Scott & White – The Brenham Clinic. Cole was raised in Bellville, a short drive from Brenham. He chose to pursue a career in healthcare because it is constantly changing, providing learning opportunities each day. Cole earned his Bachelor of Science in nursing at Prairie View A&M University and his Master of Science – family nurse practitioner degree at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Eric Alford, MD, is a family medicine physician and the regional medical director for the Baylor Scott & White clinics in Brenham. Dr. Alford specializes in providing comprehensive healthcare for all ages. He grew up in Fayetteville, about 35 miles from Brenham, and has lived in Brenham since 2013. Get to know Dr. Alford today.

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