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Everett Community College clinic exposes students to public health nursing

Monday March 11, 2013
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Carol McCahon, RN
When the Providence Everett (Wash.) Healthcare Clinic re-opens in June after moving across the street from its current strip-mall site, it will be a public healthcare clinic on a community college campus. It also will share space in the new health sciences building at Everett Community College, where eventually the college’s RN students can experience community health clinical rotations.

The nonprofit clinic provides primary care services to between 300 and 400 patients per week in its 16 exam rooms, said clinic director Marcia Wharton, MD. In its new location with four more exam rooms, a firm 400 patients weekly is the goal.

The clinic opened in 2004, funded by grants and donations through the Providence General Foundation.

"What makes this clinic unique is our model," said clinic manager Carol McCahon, RN, MSN, ARNP-BC. "We have a medical doctor as director and the rest of us are nurse practitioners. We also have an integrated model of mental healthcare." The new clinic site will provide additional space for mental health services.

McCahon and Wharton estimate that 30% of their patients — both pediatric and adult — have mental health needs. On staff are a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a mental healthcare coordinator, along with other volunteer and employee NPs. Local RNs and physicians also volunteer.

One nurse volunteer interacts specifically with diabetic and obese patients, McCahon said, checking blood glucose levels, administering injections, and providing dietary and diabetic education. Nurse volunteers are always welcome, she added.

Up to 20% of patients have no medical insurance, 60% to 65% are on Medicaid and another 10% have Medicare. "People come to us for followup after an ER visit or hospital stay because they have no primary care provider," Wharton said. Many have chronic diseases, such as a recent MI with a stent, or a new diagnosis of diabetes. One-third of those seen are younger than 18.


Gail McLean, RN
While students in Everett Community College’s ADN program don’t currently rotate through the clinic, BSN students in the nursing program at University of Washington in Bothell do. McCahon said all the clinic’s providers actively teach nursing students; the two ARNPs most recently hired originally came to the site during their student rotations.

Elliot Stern, DO, JD, the college’s dean of health services and public safety, is eager for the new clinic to open. "Having a clinic on campus will be a big plus for our college," he said. "It will serve the community as well as our students."

He said many EvCC students require vaccinations before entering their healthcare profession programs, but can’t afford them. The clinic also can function as a primary care facility for students needing medical attention.

"Partnership between the clinic and the college is visionary," said EvCC nursing instructor Gail McLean, RN, MN, who sees high value in the clinic’s presence on campus. "The clinic serves an underserved population; a common issue is mental health. Many colleges and nursing programs have a mental health component, but for students to actually to see it in the community is unique."

McLean said she foresees the clinic providing better access to community health rotations. "Nursing students need to see how outpatient care is designed," she said. "As fewer patients go to hospitals for care, more care is being done in outpatient settings."

McLean also is anticipating the potential for RN students to be more involved in health promotion and education.

"This clinic will be a win-win-win," McLean said. "Clients get access, the community is served and nursing students get valuable exposure."


Karen Schmidt, RN, is a freelance writer. Send letters to editorWest@nurse.com or post a comment below.