A mobile clinic to address Nebraska's shortage of those in rural areas who specialize in the care of older adults has been launched by the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing.
A $300,000 federal stimulus grant is funding the Mobile Nurse Managed Clinic, a 38-foot, custom-built vehicle and mobile clinic. It will fill a need for comprehensive geriatric assessments for fragile older adults in rural areas whose physical or mental conditions impair their functioning, says Dr. Claudia Chaperon, UNMC assistant professor of nursing. The college is working with primary care physicians in communities that have identified a need for the service.
The mobile clinic, which will be staffed by three geriatric nurse practitioners, began service this spring and will rotate service in Norfolk, Neligh and Red Cloud initially. The clinic will operate six days a month then ultimately eight days a month. The college hopes to expand to other locations in the future.
It also will provide clinical training for 25 students enrolled in the college's geriatric nurse practitioner program. There are few rural sites in which to train students who will be practicing in rural areas.
Three geriatric nurse practitioners, including Chaperon, who is project director of the grant, will provide comprehensive geriatric assessments. Geriatric nurse practitioners specialize in the care of older adults, particularly those with complex health issues.
"This is an innovative and collaborative primary health care model that reaches out with a critically needed service to help vulnerable older Nebraskans in rural areas," says. Chaperon. "The goal is to help improve function in older adults so they can maintain or regain their independence and do the things they like doing."
The medical evaluations can include laboratory and other diagnostic screening tests to assess a patient's physical, mental, social, environmental issues, including memory problems, depression, incontinence, hearing and vision, malnutrition or weight loss, falls, or an unsafe living environment.
Typically, geriatric assessments aren't available to older adults living in rural areas. There are few physicians who are geriatricians and less than 10 nurse practitioners are certified and licensed as geriatric nurse practitioners to conduct the specialized service.
The mobile clinic's coordinator will act as a liaison to the community, schedule appointments, coordinate services with physicians and other health care providers.
Services will be billed through Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance.
The mobile clinic has two exam rooms, a wheelchair lift, laboratory testing equipment, and EKG machines. It's also equipped with high definition video capability which can be used as a tool for a live telehealth connection to the patient's care providers or to specialists for consultation anywhere in the state.