Family Nurse Practitioner Deborah Cross, APRN, who serves as the medical director for White Mountain Community Health Center is seen with a patient. (ANNE SKIDMORE PHOTO)

By Siena Kaplan-Thompson

Special to The Conway Daily Sun

CONWAY — In honor of National Nurses Week, which ends today, I asked a number of our nurses what was different about working at a nurse-led health center.

White Mountain Community Health Center has always relied primarily on nurse practitioners to serve as providers, and today our medical director is a nurse practitioner.

Our director of operations and clinical coordinator are nurses as well. And of course, we have nurses providing traditional nursing care, assessing and advising patients who have health concerns, managing immunization clinics, coordinating care for patients who have been hospitalized or who have chronic medical conditions, educating patients about their medications and more.

So the particular perspective nurses have on health care permeates our practice at all levels. But what is that perspective exactly?

Medical Director Deborah Cross, APRN, said: “I think the main thing is that the nursing perspective is so patient-focused. Rather than being diagnostically driven, we’re really focused on the patient first, and then the diagnosis and the treatment plan comes based around the patient. That’s how nursing training goes as opposed to medical training.”

Nurse practitioners are providers who can be a patient’s primary care provider, or PCP. They see patients for annual wellness visits and any time they have a health issue, serving the same role as a physician in primary care. A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who has completed a master’s or doctoral nurse practitioner program and passed the national board exam in their specialty.

Our newest nurse practitioner, Josie Lamb, APRN, said: “A lot of us come from a background in direct patient care as RNs before we become providers, so in addition to having training in the diagnostic and management responsibilities that providers have, we spend a lot of time with our individual patients. Many of us have spent an entire 12-hour shift in a hospital with someone who is dealing with pain, or dealing with nausea, and I think that level of interaction gives us a unique perspective on our patients. And I hope that we bring that empathy to the clinic, as well, as providers.”

Kathy Blinn, RN, is one of two nurses on staff who talk to patients who call with health issues or questions. She said: “I come from a hospital background, and there, you were more or less the patient’s caretaker, but you didn’t make any independent decisions yourself, everything was handed down to you. Doctors were way up here, and nurses were way down here. It doesn’t feel that way here, it’s more even-keeled. When I talk to Debbie (Cross), she listens to what I have to say. When she talks to me, I listen to what she has to say. We’re working together and I’m not waiting for people to tell me what to do, because I know what to do, I’m allowed to do what I know what to do, and then we consult when we have to figure out what to do. You use your brain, you follow through, and you take care of the patient.”

She added, “This model is nice, because it’s nurse-driven, and I think it’s really beneficial to the patient. Because the nurse has traditionally been the caretaker, and here we really take care of the patient in the global sense.”

Clinical Coordinator Steven Roche, RN, said: “Nursing is at its root a holistic approach, so we’re able to look at the patient’s environment as a whole. I personally resonate with the nurse theorist, Rosemarie Rizzo Parse, who’s theory Human Becoming places primary concern on a person’s own perspective of quality of life and living with dignity. Everybody is unique and is changed through their interpretation of life’s situations and experiences and they cannot be separated from that. As nurses we have the privilege to develop relationships with our patients that allow us to co-create experiences and perspectives that provide them with uniquely tailored care that addresses not only physical health but also mental, spiritual and environmental health.

“There’s a quote I think about often and attempt to all areas of my life, ‘When you give the best you have to someone in need, it translates into something much deeper to the receiver. It means they are worthy.’ Kristine Levine. Ultimately I think nurses do a great job at doing just that. We are a profession that gives people our best.”

Executive Director JR Porter is not a nurse, although he spent decades as a Navy Corpsman. He said, “Nurses are attuned to people’s needs and education and a bigger picture, without a doubt. There’s a lot of research showing that nurse practitioners provide care that is comparable in quality to physicians, and by some measures can be of higher quality. The comprehensive care that we can offer from nurses is exceptional. We are incredibly thankful for the hard work our nurses do every day, going the extra miles to provide our patients with the best care possible.”

Happy National Nurses Week to all the nurses in our community!

Siena Kaplan-Thompson is director of communications and development for White Mountain Community Health Center.

The center is located at 298 White Mountain Highway, just north of Conway Village on Route 16, and offers comprehensive primary care to men, women and children, including dental care, family planning, substance abuse treatment, and support services. The health center is a non-profit that exists to ensure that everyone in our community can access high-quality health care, regardless of ability to pay, and is taking new patients.

For more information about the health center, go to whitemountainhealth.org or call (603) 447-8900.

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