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Family Health Clinic to Expand Services to Include Dental, Occupational Therapy and Exercise Science

Article by: Laura Inlow, linlow@lc.edu
GODFREY – Thanks to a recent $1.4 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Lewis and Clark Family Health Clinic is about to take interprofessional healthcare to a whole new level. 

“The new direction of healthcare in our country is all about interprofessional education and collaboration,” said former L&C Dean of Health Sciences and FHC director Donna Meyer. “Through teamwork, rather than individual healthcare silos, we hope to see better patient outcomes.”

Dr. Poonam Jain, director of SIU School of Dental Medicine’s Community and Preventive Dentistry program, will teach the nurses and nurse practitioners in the clinic to do more extensive oral health assessments and help them decide when to refer patients to L&C’s Paul B. Hanks Dental Clinic, or SIU’s School of Dental Medicine, for more extensive work.

“It is critical that nurses and nurse practitioners, who see patients much more often than dentists, be trained not only in performing oral exams, but also in assessing the oral disease risk of patients, providing guidance related to oral health and necessary referrals to dentists,” Dr. Jain said. “Both dental and nursing students will gain from working together.”

When patients come into the Family Health Clinic, the registered nurses will assess their overall healthcare status, including inquiring about dental care. 

“Nurses and nurse practitioners will perform a thorough oral health assessment on them,” Meyer said. “We will also make more referrals to our dental clinic, and include consulting services from our Exercise Science and Occupational Therapy programs on campus as well.”

Lewis and Clark nursing students will rotate through the clinic to receive community clinical experience and learn more about working in an interprofessional environment.  

“Nursing students will have a unique opportunity to identify interdisciplinary needs for a patient in a community setting,” said Sheri Banovic, L&C director of nursing education.  “They can take an active role in integrating the various disciplines in patient care.”

The L&C Family Health Clinic, which continues to be the only clinic of its kind operated by a community college in the U.S., is also the only clinic of its kind to receive HRSA funding, Meyer said. 

The college’s Mobile Health Unit will continue to expand the clinic’s reach into rural and underserved areas of the region, with the Godfrey campus’ clinic as the effort’s centralized origin.

“It’s a wonderful project for the college and community at large,” said Meyer, who initiated the interprofessional clinic concept, assisted in writing the grant and continues to serve the college in a consulting capacity.

In addition to expanding services to the community, Meyer said L&C and SIU students will benefit from interprofessional education.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to collaborate with other health disciplines on campus in order to develop and implement an interprofessional approach for treating clients in clinical practice,” said Ashley Harris, assistant professor in L&C’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program. “Incorporating Occupational Therapy into a primary care setting offers a unique perspective to the traditional medical model, in which therapy is traditionally received post-acute injury or illness. Occupational Therapy in primary care focuses on health promotion and prevention initiatives. Some of these could include the establishment and maintenance of daily routines; stress management and coping; life balance skills; therapeutic activities that promote strength, range of motion and endurance; energy/fatigue management and fall prevention.” 

Although the college is currently in the planning phase of this project, full implementation is expected by January 2016. 

For more information about the L&C Family Health Clinic, visit www.lc.edu/FHC or call (618) 468-6800.