Remote clinic gives nursing students hands-on learning opportunity

George Mason University nursing students have many opportunities to help the local community and the vulnerable populations in it throughout the year, but on May 4 and 5, 13 nursing students ventured to Chesapeake, Virginia, to assist with a clinic run by Remote Area Medical (RAM), a nonprofit provider of free mobile clinics.

The nurse practitioner students served as primary care providers at the clinic, but other services such as dental and vision were also offered. Since Chesapeake was new territory for many students, in preparation for the clinic, students researched resources in the area and examined data to determine what diseases and illnesses are prominent in the area.  

“Many of the students felt empowered to apply their knowledge and skills to provide patient education and referral resources,” said Cheryl Oetjen, interim director of the School of Nursing. “Their ability to connect with the patients was visible as they sat next to their patients and leaned into the conversations.” 

The nurses made health recommendations, wrote prescriptions and provided basic care to more than 90 patients on Saturday alone. Many of the patients were uninsured or unable to afford an insurance copay. 

"It was a great experience to be amongst fellow NP students to provide basic health care to a wide range of individuals that go without primary care,” said nursing student Maité Corbin.“Connecting with this community and making a positive impact on their health care was rewarding.”

The nurses participated as part of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant, which supports innovative academic practice partnerships to prepare primary care nurses to practice in rural and underserved settings through academic and clinical training. ​

In addition to volunteering at the RAM clinic, students have been participating in the Mason and Partners (MAP) clinics, interprofessional clinics that serve the uninsured, immigrant and refugee community within Prince William and Fairfax counties in Virginia. 

“Through the ANEW grant, we've not only learned about population health, but I think more importantly we've been given opportunities to apply our skills, which really sets us apart from other schools,” said nursing student Jennifer Rickerby, adding that the RAM clinic was a great opportunity to see other populations not specific to Northern Virginia. 

Other nursing students agreed. Corbin said that studying nursing at Mason provides a different outlook on public health than other schools, with an emphasis on underserved and vulnerable populations who may not have health insurance. 

“It not only gives you the experience, but it also just gives you that exposure to other realms of health care where most students do clinicals with primary care offices where a lot of people have insurance,” said Corbin. “This affords you the opportunity to see beyond that and allows you to see things through a bigger lens.”