Mobile health clinic helps students connect with the community

photo by Morgan Holloway

Washburn’s nursing students are getting hands-on experience through a Mobile Health Clinic thanks to partnership with Washburn University and El Centro. Setting up in the parking lot of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, the clinic helps to serve the community as well as educate them on the benefits of preventive care.

Kathy Ure is the Director of Collaborative Outreach Advanced Community Health, or C.O.A.C.H., a program that provides opportunities for students in any of the health departments a chance to work in their local community with a team perspective.

“It gives them [students] an opportunity to practice their skill set, their communication set, but it also provides the community some resources that maybe they don’t have access to in other places,” Ure said.

The Mobile Health Program has been functioning for over six years now, once a week, every week, students are brought to locations within the community, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, to see patients all day long. Students are able to treat the people they see, as well as give advice and education on how their patients can live a healthy lifestyle.

“For me personally that connection with the community is incredibly valuable, and I think it was probably life changing for me because I was a director of the women’s children services of the hospital. So I was very much into management, leadership, very much in my space and going in to the community and taking students who feel vulnerable anyway, to a community that feels vulnerable also. Now I’ve got two populations of vulnerability and your bringing them together and magic happens,” Ure said.

Samantha Schooler is just one of the students benefiting from the Mobile Health Clinic. On her second year of working with the health clinic, Samantha spoke about the challenges that students face working in a culture different from their own, such as needing an interpreter to interact with patients.

“The interpreter helps with those [cultural] barriers, if we didn’t have the interpreter then it would be very hard. Like I just had a little girl and she spoke perfectly good english, but her mom didn’t. And so I could talk to her, but trying to explain all that to her mom was a little bit harder,” Schooler said.

Samantha wants to eventually get her Doctor of Nursing Practice certification, so that she can work in a hospital as a practitioner. She has had previous experience working with patients without an interpreter and feels that working with the Mobile Health Clinic has better prepared her for interpersonal relationships within the workplace. She also explained that most people do not realize how important understanding the community surrounding a hospital is for medical personal to better treat their patients.

“It also helps with the community base, you go to a hospital and you strictly think hospital setting. You don’t really kind of know like all the communities, like poverty communities, or language barrier communities. It [the mobile clinic] kind of intertwines that and helps us understand that,” Schooler said.

The Mobile clinic only goes to places they have been invited to. For this semester, they have been welcomed by El Centro of Topeka. The organization provides support to individuals coming into the community of Topeka when English is not their primary language, and they do not know anything about the local community. The clinic also uses University of Kansas’ community tool kit to do an assessment of the community that they are entering to find out the specific needs of the people the clinic will be treating.

For those who have the chance to participate in the Mobile Health Clinic program, it is excellent opportunity to help people in need.

“It is an honor and it is a blessing for us as faculty and students to be invited to the community, and we respect and appreciate this from the bottom of our hearts,” Ure said.