Sep272010

School of Nursing Partners with Clinic to Improve Access to Health Care

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By Catherine Ferraro

Kathy Dickman. Photo courtesy of Kathy Dickman

Statistics show that nearly 20 percent of residents under age 65 living in the commonwealth of Virginia lack health care insurance. In addition, studies have shown that uninsured individuals are prone to higher rates of chronic illness and mental health problems.

A new Mason partnership aims to help alleviate these growing challenges in Northern Virginia. Mason’s School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Services has received a $1.6 million grant (to be funded over five years) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration to establish the Mason Partners for Access to Health Care (PATH) program.

Partnering with the Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic (JSFC) in Herndon, Va., Mason PATH will help improve access to quality primary and behavioral health care for low-income and minority patients in Fairfax County who lack health insurance and suffer from diabetes and hypertension.

In addition, JSFC patients will have access to mental health screening for depression and anxiety and management of behavioral health issues.

“The health of an individual and community depend greatly on their access to quality health care and education about self-managing their illnesses,” says Kathy Dickman, director of the PATH program and assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

“By expanding health care services at the clinic and offering service learning experiences for students, this grant will pave the way for future models of expansion of improved community-based health care, as well as provide quality care for patients who truly need it.”

Clinical services will be provided by Mason faculty members who are trained family nurse practitioners and psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners. The clinic will also serve as an applied lab for Mason nursing students who will work directly with faculty members to gain experience in nursing administration, being a clinical specialist and education.

“This grant creates a wonderful partnership between Mason’s School of Nursing and the clinic that will allow our faculty and students to engage in practice with patients in the community,” says Robin Remsburg, director of the School of Nursing.

“The faculty can translate their practice into the classroom, which contributes to an even richer learning experience for our students.”

The PATH program will also provide individual and group education programs on topics such as dental care, nutrition, women’s health care and healthy living. These programs are intended to help improve patients’ understanding of their own health conditions and resources available in their community.

The goal of the PATH program in the first year is to increase the number of new patients to 100 and offer service learning opportunities to more than 40 undergraduate and graduate nursing students. The number of patients and students are expected to increase in the next few years.

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