When people ask me what my days were like as a Community Health Center nurse, I don’t have a short answer. Health center nurses often find themselves directly engaged in patient care — triaging, administering medications and immunizations and treating wounds, but also navigating patients via phone, calling pharmacies to troubleshoot medications, attending meetings, and supervising other team members. All this while having to remember to document everything! Needless to say, health center nursing is anything but dull and brings much joy.
When I started nursing school, I already knew I wanted to work in community health because as a child growing up overseas I had witnessed the independent and innovative role of nurses working in community health. I then looked for opportunities during nursing school to be exposed to health centers, which grew my passion for this area of service. When my pathway to community health nursing came to fruition within 3 years of graduating nursing school, I knew I had found my calling. As a health center nurse for 12 years, I provided nurse care management to several hundred patients. I was also given the opportunity to move up in leadership and work innovatively within a multi-disciplinary team. Our focus was on creating nurse-visits, developing a care management structure and measuring our impact on patient outcomes, retention/recruitment, and staff satisfaction. Working as a nurse in a health center offered the opportunity to use my nursing hands, but also my nursing head and heart—my training, experience, and intuition—to make a strong and lasting impact on the patients and staff I was blessed to serve.
It’s an honor to now work at NACHC and celebrate community health nurses and the people who support them. In 2020 we are proud to take part in the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which marks the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. NACHC’s Nurses Leading With Care campaign will celebrate the more than 28,000 APRNs, RNs and LPNs, administrative nurses and nurses in leadership at health centers, Primary Care Associations or Health Center Controlled Networks throughout the year.
Each month’s focus area will relate to our overall theme of “Nurses Leading with Care.” We hope to offer opportunities for accolades to individual nurses and teams of nurses through their contributions in care coordination, care management, leadership, quality improvement, informatics, preventive care, specialty care, education, evaluation, and advocacy to name a few.
We’ve already talked to some remarkable nurses and look forward to talking to more throughout the year.
They are people like Dara Koppelman, RN, MHSA, Chief Nursing Officer, at Mary’s Center, in Washington, D.C. whose role runs the gamut at her health center:
“I think people don’t realize all of the awesome things you can do as a community health nurse. It is such a dynamic role. I get to be involved in so many different things as a nurse leader in community health. I get to help build new sites, create new programs, and inform how operations can work within a clinical setting, among other things,” she said.
People like Charlotte Ficklin, LPN, Nurse Care Manager, Southeast Community Health Systems, in Hammond, LA. Ficklin says she loves seeing successes, such as “when you finally have that one patient get his A1c under control, or stay on top of his diabetes care plan. It is so rewarding.”
We look forward to sharing many more stories like these about the indelible difference nurses make every day on the front lines of community health.
Help us tell the Community Health Center nurse story by nominating a nurse here: http://bit.ly/NACHCYOTN2020