Dr. Stacey Burnett and her husband, Patrick Burnett, fell in love with Eureka Springs a long time ago. Stacey visited in the 1980s and a few times since. Patrick first came to visit 25 years ago and the couple have been vacationing here regularly since getting married 10 years ago.
In January they bought the Sherwood Court, a tourist lodging that’s one of the last operating 1950’s-era motor courts in Eureka Springs. They have spent a lot of time updating the seven-cottage, four-motel rooms property.
In March, Stacey joined the Eureka Springs Family Clinic on Passion Play Road. Like many rural areas, Eureka Springs has many physicians retiring or near retirement age, so a new family medicine physician has been most welcome.
“We love this town,” Burnett said. “I tend to be a little bit on the more eccentric side, so I decided being in a town with eccentric people I would actually be normal here. For example, I dance with a hula hoop. I started after I saw a girl at Chelsea’s in 2015 and was mesmerized. I had to find out how to do that.”
She also loves working at the clinic.
“I’ve never felt so comfortable in a job for family medicine before,” Burnett said. “People are friendly here and very open. I worked a few places that were in a city environment. People there just don’t open up as much. I enjoy rural more than urban medicine Here in a rural setting, people are willing to talk to you about other things than medical issues. They tell you a lot about their lives. It’s nice to see my patients outside of the clinic.”
Burnett said many of her patients are proactive about their health. They want to exercise, eat right, reduce stress and not just rely on a prescription medicine for health. And she loves the “family” part of family medicine, getting to know families from grandparents to the younger generation. That helps her “connect the dots” to see how patients interact with their families.
Some patients have asked how long she plans to stay around, as many would prefer not to change practitioners frequently. She tells them she is here to stay.
“I want to make it work and stay in this community for the rest of my life,” she said. “I really don’t get it why other doctors don’t like rural medicine. I don’t know why other doctors don’t flood in here.”
Some people have faced difficulties in finding a new family doctor after their previous doctor retired or when they have moved here from another area. But Burnett said they have plenty of room for new patients at the Eureka Springs Family Clinic. Another new doctor has been hired since Burnett.
The Burnetts grew up in central Arkansas. They were high school sweethearts, but then didn’t see each other for 20 years before reconnecting.
Patrick, who has been doing graphic design and advertising for 27 years, is still serving previous clients while taking on the life of an innkeeper. He loves to cook, so one of the extra attractions at Sherwood Court includes a hot breakfast on weekends and homemade treats when people check in.
The Burnetts have done a lot of renovation with the aim of modernization while keeping the historic charm. They replaced all the doors on the cottages and are staying open year around even though previously the property was “Closed for the season, Winter the reason.” They have updated cable and Wi-Fi, and replaced all the mattresses.
“People want a good night’s sleep,” Patrick said. “The new mattresses are just awesome. We are also dog friendly. An increasing number of people are traveling with pets. We charge the same for a dog as an extra person, $10 per night. It has worked out great for us. People are excited they can bring their pet with them. We have had only one issue in eleven months, and it was easily rectified.”
Online reviews indicate people really appreciate advice about where to go.
“We think more like tourists than innkeepers,” he said. “We have enjoyed this town as tourists. We know where to go, what is good, what is not. Guests say we are so helpful, it is practically like having a concierge.”
Patrick gets good feedback about how much his wife is valued.
“The clinic was not only bringing in a female doctor, but a younger doctor who fits the Eureka model,” he said. “For the first time in years, she is really enjoying practicing medicine. She was getting really tired of city medicine. I always tell my guests when they don’t meet my wife that Stacey is a tie-dyed doctor. She is a bit of a hippie, she’s awesome.”
They operate the inn seven days a week, which doesn’t leave much downtime.
“This year has been a lot of change and work,” Patrick said. “We are glad we are healthy and young. We finally found a housekeeper who has been helping quite a bit. Next year we expect to enjoy Eureka Springs more. We are looking forward to working out and playing pickleball at the community center. Stacey wants to take classes at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Also, I’m a multi-instrumentalist musician and hoping to get to the point that I can play with other musicians around town.”
Patrick said this is the best, but hardest, job he has ever had and the best place they have ever lived.
“We feel like we belong here,” he said. “Innkeeping is not for the faint of heart. It takes people who are very versatile. We work until we drop and get up and do it again, but we are getting there. This place is getting into shape and it’s becoming our home more and more every day.”