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Nursing department partners with healthcare clinic

Nursing partnership with Clarkston
FNP student Grace Smith (left) and BSN student Marci Miller (right) examine patient records while working at the Clarkston Community Health Center.

The University of North Georgia's (UNG) Department of Nursing has partnered with the Clarkston Community Health Center, and is sending teams of faculty and students to provide free healthcare to uninsured patients weekly.

Clarkston has been referred to as the "most diverse square mile in America" by Atlanta Magazine. After speaking with Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry to determine outreach options, Dr. Kim Hudson-Gallogly, head of UNG's Department of Nursing, devised a plan to create a nurse-led dedicated education unit (DEU). The DEU sends Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) students to the health center under the supervision of nursing faculty to deliver care to the refugees and immigrants of Clarkston.

"In addition to treating patients who cannot afford healthcare, we have established this health center as a dedicated clinical site," Gallogly said. "This is really great for students who can't afford to study or serve abroad; they get great exposure to many different cultures here in their own state. When you walk through the door at the clinic you are transported to countries around the world. It is truly an awakening experience for students and faculty alike."

According to Gallogly, Emory University is exploring the possibility of offering perinatal care at the clinic, and has reached out to UNG to shadow its nursing teams to model the partnership for best practice.

The DEU also is seeking grants to ensure sustainability and scalability for the patients under care at the clinic.

Heather Harris, nurse practitioner and coordinator for population health in UNG's Department of Nursing, said the clinic provides a unique opportunity for nursing students to see primary care in action.

"Population Health is a course BSN students take during their final semester, and this clinical partnership is an excellent way for them to experience what the course is about," Harris said. "Our students get a great deal of hospital experience during most of their clinicals, but this site focuses much more on primary care, such as triage, drawing blood for lab work, health assessments, and other skills that aren't as prevalently needed at hospital clinical sites."

Harris added that the Clarkston Community Health Center provides students with the closest thing she has seen to a medical mission trip within the U.S.

"I have taken nursing students to the Dominican Republic in the past for medical mission trips, and working in the Clarkston Community Health Center allows students to experience many of the things they can typically only see outside of our nation's borders," Harris said.

UNG's BSN Program is a traditional four-year course of study. The program builds on a solid foundation of two years of liberal arts and sciences as prerequisites followed by immersion in two years of nursing course work, and prepares professional nurses to be nurse generalists with the knowledge and skills to practice in acute and community settings.

The UNG FNP program was developed as a "rural health" program, and all clinical courses focus on rural primary care. Many nursing students are currently serving in medically underserved north Georgia clinics. 

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