Radford nursing students and faculty pitch in at giant regional health care clinic
Radford University School of Nursing (SON) faculty and students joined hundreds of professional colleagues in a humanitarian volunteer effort at the 19th Annual Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic this summer in Wise, Virginia.
Contingents from three SON programs – Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), BSN and RN-BSN – helped with the nation’s largest mobile clinic that delivers an estimated $3 million worth of services each summer.
Nurse practitioners from the Family Medical Health (FMH) and Psychiatric Mental Health (PMH) programs, led by Associate Professor of Nursing Victoria Bierman, joined Radford BSN students, led by Nursing faculty Kate Brennan, Kemberly Campbell and Louise Coats, and volunteers from the SON’s RN-BSN program to see more than 2,500 residents of underserved, isolated or impoverished communities who rely on the mobile clinics for health care.
Senior nursing students Maureen Shenault and Leigh Spangler spent three and a half days triaging patients from across the region who came to access a range of medical services that rivals those available at hospitals. They also assisted in the phlebotomy lab and at one of the event’s two dental clinics.
“It was a really faced-paced environment,” said Spangler. “As soon as I raised my hand, I had a new patient. Patients were lined up when we got there on the first day and we must have seen 500 patients.”
The volunteer service was meaningful personally and professionally to Shenault.
“The experience was humbling and made me appreciative. I saw real faces on real patients and saw how what we are learning in class can help them,” said Shenault, who saw a family of ten children in line when she arrived at 4:30 a.m. on the first day. “I was stunned in each interaction at their kindness and appreciation.”
Spangler recalled a patient who was rushed into emergency care.
“She looked ok, but her blood pressure was the highest I had ever seen. I doublechecked it and called for the Doctor. When he read the number, he said, ‘Who took this?” I got scared that I had made a mistake,” Spangler said. “After we talked and I told what I did and how, he complimented me. That made me feel good. I am more confident now in my skills and it was nice to be treated as a professional by my colleagues.”
Spangler also appreciated the opportunity to work with members of the Radford SON faculty.
“In clinicals, they watch us and in the classroom, they teach us,” said Spangler. “At RAM, we worked as colleagues and it was cool to see them doing what they are teaching us to do.”
Unlike Spangler and Shenault, Joshua Tucker, a DNP candidate from Martinsville, is a veteran nurse who is currently a home dialysis nurse. Tucker was part of a team of DNP candidates working with Professor of Nursing Vickie Bierman, primary investigator of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce: Longitudinal Education Advancing Rural Nursing (ANEW:LEARN) grant.
The ANEW:LEARN program expands the relationship between the SON and regional health care providers and agencies in Southwest Virginia and Southside Virginia by supporting DNP students’ presence in service with them.
“The experience was unlike anything I have experienced in outreach or mission work,” said Tucker. “It was a mass influx of people seeking treatment.”
According to Health Wagon, the organization who coordinated the event, patients came from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Tucker and his DNP colleagues assessed and treated individuals who presented for substance use, depression, anxiety, and trauma. In September, Bierman, DNP Clinical Coordinator Janet McDaniel and DNP students will return to Wise to follow-up with these patients met at RAM.
Tucker worked with counselors, nurse practitioners and physicians to do intake and assist with hour-long patient interviews. He said the RAM experience helped him gain perspective about the correlation between physical and mental health.
“Mental and physical health go hand in hand. In many cases behavioral or mental health issues can explain why patients are non-compliant with the things they need to do medically,” Tucker said.
Both the collegiality of his fellow health care professionals and the RAM’s operational scale impressed Tucker.
“I felt like we worked together to provide some real bang for the buck for these patients. I was amazed at the number of health care volunteers who made the fairgrounds into a community hospital that provided in-depth service,” Tucker said.