The Georgia College School of Nursing has begun a yearlong exploration into developing a school-based health clinic at the Montessori Academy at the Early Learning Center. Development comes after Georgia College received a $10,000 planning and assessment grant from Emory University.
“A health care center like this would mean a lot to our community, where 16 percent of the residents are uninsured and one-third of the children live in poverty,” said Dr. Deborah MacMillan, director of Nursing Programs.
“The effects of poverty on children’s health and well-being are well-documented,” she said. “Parents working jobs with hourly wages and inflexible hours often struggle to keep up with routine screenings and physicals. In many communities, school nurses fill this gap in services by providing care during the school day.”
In Baldwin County, up to 1,266 students are serviced by one nurse, MacMillan said. If fully implemented, the new site would provide health care for Baldwin County School System students and their families, as well as serve as a learning experience for Georgia College students in a range of disciplines.
“It would provide an important service-learning opportunity for our students at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level,” said Victoria Bohan, nursing lecturer and grant manager. “Not only are they being exposed to servicing community health care needs, but by working together, their education will have much more depth.”
Since 2011, school-based health clinics have grown in the U.S. by 20 percent to 2,315 sites in 49 of 50 states. In rural areas, clinics like these serve an even greater purpose. Studies show clinics in rural areas serve more community populations in addition to students than suburban and urban clinics.
If funded, undergraduate students would perform vision and hearing tests and graduate students would complete health assessments. Doctoral students would have the opportunity to create innovative ways to serve community health care needs.
“One important aspect of this clinic would be to have our students gain exposure to children from varied socioeconomic groups with differing access to care,” Bohan said. “Our students often come from privileged backgrounds where they don’t have to worry about having access to health care. It’s all very theoretical to them. This would give them that perspective.”
The school-based health clinic has the potential to provide gaps in health care access in Baldwin and surrounding counties—a hallmark of the School of Nursing mission, MacMillan and Bohan said.
Throughout next year, the School of Nursing will assemble a community advisory group of local planning organizations, the school system, medical service providers, the public health department, local businesses and more. They’ll also complete a needs assessment and develop a business plan to establish the clinic.
“The School of Nursing is committed to improving health care outcomes and decreasing disparities in the middle Georgia region,” Bohan said. “We’re in a unique position to provide that care and work to close the health care gap.”
For more information, please call 478-445-1076.