In the world of nursing, there are those who go above and beyond, dedicating themselves not only to providing care but also to making a profound impact on the communities they serve. Desiree, a dedicated nurse with American Medical Staffing, is one of these exceptional individuals. In this Clinician Spotlight, we shine a light on Desiree’s inspiring journey and her groundbreaking work in bringing a School-Based Health Center (SBHC) to a school district in Maryland.
A Unique Path to Nursing
Desiree’s journey into nursing is a unique one. She started her career with a degree in music education, specializing in the violin, and spent nearly a decade teaching music. Then, a compelling desire to make a difference in healthcare led her back to school, and she transitioned into nursing.
“I returned to nursing school and, following graduation, got into pediatric nursing, mostly in hospitals in the pediatric ER and pediatric ICU,” Desiree explains. Her career took her to different hospitals as her husband’s military service required them to move frequently. She dabbled in school nursing in Florida before fully transitioning into the role.
Desiree serves as a Community School nurse, a vital role. “I work with our educators and our Community School Coordinator, basically everybody in the building,” she shares. Her focus is on population-level health support, ranging from individual referrals for students to community partnerships.
The Genesis of a Community Health Building Project
Desiree’s work goes beyond the typical roles of a school nurse. She’s the driving force behind a groundbreaking project – the creation of the first School-Based Health Center in her district. This innovative project aims to address the significant need for accessible healthcare in the community.
The project was inspired by a local Community Resource Day that highlighted the need for a pediatrician in the area. After some research, Desiree discovered the concept of School-Based Health Centers, which are full-service primary care clinics located on school campuses. The idea was to create a clinic with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant who could diagnose and prescribe medication.
“We need a pediatrician,” Desiree said when asked about her thoughts on the matter, and that ignited the process. The project quickly gained momentum when the local hospital and the Department of Health expressed their interest. The key factor was obtaining grants from the Community Health Resource Commission (CHRC) to fund operational aspects.
Anticipated Impact on the Community
This groundbreaking project aims to address multiple concerns within the community. Key outcomes Desiree and her team are working towards include:
- Improved Attendance: They hope to reduce absenteeism due to preventable illnesses by offering students accessible primary care on the school campus.
- Better Educational Outcomes: Desiree envisions correlations between School-Based Health Center use and academic success, ultimately leading to improved test scores and achievement rates.
- Reduced Emergency Department Utilization: By providing regular and accessible primary care, Desiree hopes to see a decline in students needing emergency department visits.
“The intersection of health and education is significant,” Desiree emphasizes. Her goal is to contribute to the overall wellbeing of students while helping them excel academically. She believes that focusing on healthcare can impact educational outcomes and vice versa.
The Rewarding and Challenging Aspects of the Project
Desiree finds her journey into this transformative project highly rewarding. Working with an array of professionals from both the education and health sectors has been an inspiring experience. She highlights the passion that educators and health experts share for seeing students thrive.
The initiative is not without challenges, mainly due to the lengthy timelines and bureaucratic hurdles that are part of any major project. Desiree mentions that it’s often a process of “hurry up and wait.”
Advice for Aspiring Community Health Champions
When asked for advice for other nurses interested in spearheading similar projects, Desiree encourages her fellow nurses to engage actively with their communities. She emphasizes the importance of stepping out of the clinic and becoming visible within the school and local community.
“Nurses have a lot of power to work with communities and families because they know that we care,” she states. She believes that nurses’ trustworthiness and their ability to inspire positive change in the community are underutilized resources.
Desiree encourages nurses to collaborate with educators and professionals from various fields, recognizing that a joint effort in the realm of health and education can bring about significant and lasting change.