For advanced nurse practitioner Tranika Brown, DNP, FNP, an average day at the Augusta University College of Nursing’s Nurse-Managed Health Center could look like this.
First up is a flu shot for a 1-year-old, then an annual physical for a student athlete. A 40-year-old woman comes in for an annual visit, which includes a Pap smear, a blood draw and a referral for a mammogram. An older patient who’s being followed for diabetes and high blood pressure stops in because he’s been having some odd symptoms and wants to talk them over. Then it’s a follow-up visit with a patient who was just discharged from the hospital after surgery.
“We’re a full-service clinic,” said Brown, “offering same-day and walk-in appointments for everyone from children to older adults, as well as offering services for women.”
Both new patients as well as established patients at Augusta University Health are welcome to experience the center’s primary care and chronic care management services. So is anyone wanting a “prompt-care” type of experience for a medical issue that’s not serious enough for the ER, but can’t wait the couple of weeks it can sometimes take for an appointment with a doctor. Transitional care—where patients discharged from the hospital have a follow-up appointment to make sure they understand how to care for themselves at home—is another important role.
“But,” emphasized Dr. Janis Coffin, a family medicine physician who is the physician collaborator for the new center, “it’s not only about scheduling walk-ins and appointments in a timely manner, but also making sure to establish a holistic relationship with the patient to care for both chronic and acute conditions.”
So, say you’re someone who’s never been a patient at Augusta University Health, but you’re having a health issue. You can make an appointment at the Nurse-Managed Health Center for an evaluation, then get help with referrals for specialists within the health system for follow-up care or treatment. Then, along the way, you can continue to see your nurse practitioner at the health center for primary care.
Or, maybe you’re a longstanding patient at AU Health, but you’re having a mild flare-up of a problem and you can’t get an appointment as quickly as you would like. As part of the same health system, the AU Nurse-Managed Health Center has access to your medical record and can help you manage your symptoms until you can get an appointment with your physician. Then, your doctor will be able to review your nurse practitioner’s notes, too, so that everyone is on the same page on your care.
“It’s an entry point,” said Coffin.
While not all nurse-managed health centers are necessarily designed this way, the AU health center has put its focus on convenience. “That’s a big differentiator for us,” said Will McCranie, academic business associate at the College of Nursing.
The center is located in the Augusta University College of Allied Health Sciences building on 987 St. Sebastian Way, Suite 1500, with 10 designated parking spaces right outside its front door—look for the sign, “Nurse-Managed Health Center.”
It’s open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has extended hours on Thursdays until 8:30 p.m.
Same-day appointments are available, but even walk-ins should expect their wait time to be less than 30 minutes, said Brown. That convenience will continue, even if the clinic fills to capacity. Brown staffs the center full-time, with other advanced practice nurses from the College of Nursing rotating through, offering patients multiple options.
The Big Picture
Health care is expensive for everyone. But a center like this can help cut costs for the patient and prevent redundancy too, said Coffin.
For example, a patient has a flare-up and decides to visit a community prompt care facility. Because that facility doesn’t have access to the patient’s medical record, new labs or X-rays might have to be ordered. That’s extra time and money that the patient has to spend. “As a patient of Augusta University Health, by visiting the Nurse-Managed Health Center for your continuity of care, it’s all within one system, which means reduced cost for the patient,” said Coffin.
A Holistic Approach
“Within the state of Georgia, we work closely with the collaborating physician,” said Brown. “It’s all about the team approach to taking care of patients.”
As the physician collaborator, Coffin signs off on notes and is available for nurse practitioners to bounce ideas off of and to consult, as needed. Dwayne Hooks, PhD, ARPN, FNP-BC, serves as clinical director, working closely with Coffin, and also rotates through the center seeing patients.
That team approach is also a holistic one. And it comes back, once again, to time. “Here at this clinic, we do take pride in the fact that we do have time to take care of the patient,” said Brown. “We’re addressing their conditions, we’re talking through their questions. That’s the model here.”
The NMHC team is also assisting the community in response to COVID-19. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), faculty RNs, and AU Health nurses are providing all AU Health patients their positive and negative test results. Additionally, the APRNs are participating in the virtual screening of patients utilizing the AU ExpressCare telehealth app.