W&M’s spring break visit in 2016 is fourth in a row

September 21, 2016

3-2016 W&M students

Eleven students from the College of William and Mary spent their spring break March 6-12 at the Northern Neck – Middlesex Free Health Clinic (NNMFHC) in Kilmarnock.

This is the fourth year in a row that W&M students have signed up for spring break “Branch Out” program at the NNMFHC. Branch Out is a national program focusing on community service projects, and the NNMFHC staff looks forward to the energy and expertise students bring with them. The Branch Out goal is for students to explore rural health care, including its challenges and needs, while the Clinic helps provide education and provides the rural health experience with the hope that some will return to the field upon graduation.

Some of this group will return before graduation. Clinic Executive Director Jean Nelson reported that two want to volunteer this summer, and one intends to do her thesis on the Clinic and governmental health policies. Four others expect to be Clinic volunteers after graduating.

“We love having the students,” said Jean Nelson, Executive Director. “They are enthusiastic, pick up quickly on what is needed, and energize the staff just by being here.”
The students stayed at the Clinic’s first home – the Phyllis F. Smith Building, which has been remodeled for meetings, specialty clinics, and to serve as a dorm for VCU School of Dentistry students, who rotate through the NNMFHC’s Dental Clinic three days a week. The dental students were on their own break from school – and the Clinic rotations – during the week W&M students were here.

This year the Branch Out group logged outdated charts, conducted a chart audit of patient conditions, worked in the pharmacy, helped with eligibility screenings, assisted in the Dental Clinic, took vitals, shadowed medical providers, made reminder calls, and got to know the Clinic, the area, volunteers, staff, and patients served.
“I cannot emphasize enough how much working with the incredibly dedicated staff and volunteers at NNMFHC has changed my perspective on community,” said Ellen Yates, one of the group leaders. “They were able to teach me in one week what I had yet to learn from years of intermittent service work. I will never forget the degree of humility, respect, and compassion that every person there holds for their patients and community at large.”

Another member of the group, Elena Parcell, added that “getting to spend time at Northern Neck was an unbelievable privilege, and has been one of the most inspiring and life-altering experiences I have ever had. It was absolutely humbling to be among all the employees and volunteers who have poured their hearts and souls into the clinic to serve the community and provide dignified health care.”

Clearing out old patient charts was one of the W&M projects. All of these charts – more than seven years old now – were logged in and brought down from upstairs storage to be shredded, and to make room for more. The Clinic has seen more than 13,500 unduplicated individuals over the years, and periodically must destroy the oldest charts that have gone unused to keep up with the new ones being created daily.