Healthcare in the Shadows

Sustaining and Growing a “Good Idea” in Grand Rapids

Posted by on Thursday, August 13, 2015 in News.

The Grand Valley State University (GVSU) nurse-led care initiatives arose out of “a good idea”, developed and championed by psych-mental health professor Dr. Andrea Bostrom when she saw the lack of mental health services available to vulnerable populations living in the inner city area. Dr. Bostrom worked closely with community partners, the college of nursing, and the university to open the Herkimer Health Center in 1995.  Services at that time focused on helping the residents of the Herkimer Apartments achieve their highest level of health.   That good idea expanded under a grant from the WK Kellogg Foundation.  In 1999, Kellogg provided funding for nurse managed clinic development at four Michigan university colleges of nursing: Wayne State, University of Michigan, Michigan State and Grand Valley State

Professor Ruthann Brintnall at the front door of the Family Health Center.

Today, the GVSU Kirkof College of Nursing is continues to operate its nurse managed health center at an improved and larger site where the faculty and staff see 5500 patient visits per year. The College has strategically partnered with community service agencies that serve the same population; the Family Health Center is co-located with a transitional housing provider and several human services agencies in a former hospital building in downtown Grand Rapids. Students from all undergraduate and graduate nursing programs train here and a number of doctor of nursing practice students have used the health center as a focus of their scholarly work.  The health center has been formally recognized for its quality by local Medicaid managed care organizations.

Nurse Practitioner Kim Fenbert examines a patient.

Dean Cynthia McCurren is firmly committed to strategically expanding nurse-led models of care.  She actively seeks community partners to negotiate opportunities for these models to grow and be sustained.  Dean McCurren is supported by university leaders in this work for several reasons:  the College needs good clinical placement sites for its students for both traditional rotations and for interprofessional collaboration rotations, the nursing school faculty need a place for their own clinical practice to maintain their credentials, and the university has made a commitment to the urban community to be engaged in helping meet residents’ needs. McCurren is well aware that the need to diversify the type of nurse-led care models beyond serving only uninsured and Medicaid patients is necessary to survive financially.  One innovative idea was to develop a Travel Clinic within the Family Health Center and this idea has paid off.  It offers timely access for required vaccines to traveling students, faculty and the general public and is a profitable endeavor.

This College of Nursing is one of two Michigan schools that have sustained their nurse managed clinic services post Kellogg funding and neither has pursued federally qualified health center designation.  Wayne State is the other one.  The journey has not been easy. The College depends on business strategy, commitment and advocacy that begins with the Dean. Of all the nurse managed sites that I have visited this year, GVSU stands out for the active and strong leadership coming from their Dean.




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