An innovative program at Dearing Elementary School that pairs advanced nursing students from The Medical College of Georgia with families in the community who have medical concerns is proving to be beneficial to everyone, said Dearing Principal Linda Grisham.
Under the program, MCG student nurses are active in the school, working collaboratively with the school nurse in several ways such as presenting workshops on health issues like the dangers of second hand smoke. Working in pairs, the nurses also make home visits to Dearing students and their families to discuss medical issues and concerns.
Their expertise is especially appreciated because the rural nature of the Dearing community, which is between Thomson and Augusta, sometimes makes traveling to medical appointments difficult.
The presence of MCG medical personnel in the community began several years ago when nurse practitioner Sandy Turner linked up with Dearing Elementary School.
Before school nurses joined the staffs of McDuffie County schools, Dr. Turner arranged for a nursing student from MCG to visit Dearing on Wednesdays, lending a hand with a variety of duties.
"Through this, Dr. Turner just grew to love this community," Dr. Grisham said.
Dr. Turner, who chairs bio behavioral nursing at MCG, still maintains a presence in the community; she operates The Good Samaritan House clinic supported by Dearing Baptist Church, MCG and McDuffie County Partners for Success.
As the presence of student nurses at Dearing Elementary School expanded, the experience continues to help both the nurses and Dearing children and their families, said Pat Humble, assistant professor at MCG School of nursing who coordinates the program.
"The (nursing) students just love it," she said.
As the student nurses develop closer relationships with community families, they are able to offer medical guidance as well as link families to available resources and agencies when needed.
"These young ladies and men are learning how to help with any needs they might see," Dr. Grisham said.
The school maintains a waiting list of families interested in meeting with the student nurses. When one family's questions are answered, another family moves into place to receive medical guidance.
The visits are confidential, and school personnel are not involved once the families and student nurses are connected.
Schools are noticing children and families with some complicated medical issues, and this mutually beneficial partnership has been positive for both sides.
"This has been such a wonderful thing," Dr. Grisham said.