Healing Hands: School of Nursing’s Clinic Benefits Community, Students

Posted: March 7, 2014 at 5:02 am, Last Updated: March 10, 2014 at 7:06 am

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By Sudha Kamath

Student Nurse Jill Briggs works with School of Nursing faculty to administer health care to area residents at the Manassas Park community center. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Student nurse Jill Briggs works with School of Nursing faculty to administer health care to area residents at the Manassas Park community center. Photo by Evan Cantwell

George Mason University’s School of Nursing is reaching out to the community in a way that benefits area residents and nursing students. The school is holding clinics once a week in Manassas Park, Va., offering health screenings to those who do not have health insurance coverage.

Carol Urban, acting director of the School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Services, calls the clinic a partnership between George Mason’s School of Nursing, the Prince William County Health Department, Manassas Park Public Schools and the Manassas Park Community Center. “It is an excellent example of how academic-community partnerships can help to meet the health needs of the community,” she explains.

Urban says students from Mason’s Fairfax Campus and Mason’s nurse practitioner program on the Prince William Campus are learning valuable lessons in the field. “This clinic provides hands-on experience for nurse practitioner students who soon will become primary care providers, as well as for undergraduate nursing students to learn about community and population health.”

Rebecca Sutter, health clinic director and acting assistant dean in the School of Nursing, says services offered include school and youth athletic physicals, general health physicals, acute illness care and screenings for asthma, hypertension and diabetes. The clinic does not provide pre-employment physicals requiring drug testing, long-term treatments for complicated illnesses, obstetrics care or well-baby checkups that require immunizations.

About 20 patients are seen at each clinic on a first-come, first-served basis because of limited hours during this pilot phase. The effects extend beyond the clinic. “The clinics also act as an entry point into available resources in the community, and we will work with patients to find needed, continuing medical care,” says Sutter. “There will be planned education for patients on how to best care for themselves to help them optimize their own health. Expanded hours are planned at the completion of the pilot phase.”

Lois Kwon is a Mason nursing graduate student who hopes to become a family nurse practitioner. She is logging clinical hours toward her degree, while learning that the human element is especially key to community health care.

“I’ve learned a great deal on how to treat patients without all the technology that other facilities use,” says Kwon. “I feel as though our help means more to the underserved population, and they actually listen to our advice. We get used to all the high technology and not thinking about costs. Helping at the clinic reminds you of the basics and making health care more affordable.”

Vanessa Flory is a Mason graduate student specializing in nursing education. She was assigned to Manassas Park in her clinical rotation this semester. “From my time at the clinic so far, it is really apparent how great the need is for clinics to serve the uninsured,” Flory says. “We have had patients coming for physicals because they have not had the opportunity to see a health care provider. We also have patients with chronic illnesses in need of finding appropriate community resources.”

Flory says the Mason clinic aims to bridge the gap in care for patients without insurance. “From the short time that I have been at the clinic,” she says, “we have seen patients covering a wide spectrum of issues. Being able to provide basic health education pertinent to their medical issue and referrals for services in the community is very rewarding.”

Write to Sudha Kamath at skamath@gmu.edu

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