Health care is changing. Expanding requirements for health insurance and technological advancements have changed the patient experience. But, for the growing number of nurse practitioners in private practice, change does not mean the focus on the patient must go out the window.
Leisa Clayton, FNP-BC, MSN, owner and operator of Blue Collar Health, has dedicated her practice to making health care more convenient, and ultimately more affordable, for all of her patients. Since converting an R.V. into the San Angelo-based Blue Collar Health mobile clinic, Clayton, a Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program alumna, has seen first-hand how a mobile model like hers can improve health care for rural communities, migrant workforces and working class laborers who cannot afford the time away from work required to visit a traditional clinic.
“We cover small communities, where people would typically have to drive at least 50 miles to see a doctor,” Clayton said. “The normal working class cannot afford to leave work for a half or full day.”
Clayton has made it her mission to deliver health care to those who cannot make the trip to a doctor. As a primary care specialist, she sees a bit of everything and has become an integral part of keeping labor forces healthy, including employees working in the oil, natural gas and wind energy industries. The on-demand model helps companies maximize their productivity while still ensuring the well-being of their workforce.
“A big part of family practice is performing state-mandated Department of Transportation physicals,” Clayton said. “For a worker to leave the job site to get the annual physical, the entire team must shut down, because they cannot operate without the one person. This kills productivity for an entire day, and companies lose money to comply with mandatory requirements.”
It is not only the working population of West Texas that has called upon the Blue Collar Health mobile clinic. Clayton also has aided the rural elderly and children in the 100-mile radius surrounding San Angelo.
“For a rural child to go to a regular check up, he or she may be out of school for a full day in order to travel to the nearest traditional clinic,” Clayton said. “We can pull up to the school and have the child back in class in fifteen minutes. We can serve an elderly person in his or her own town. This is important, especially if they are unable to drive long distances.”
Clayton’s clinic is aimed at restoring a critical component to health care—service. She believes that traditional health care is not convenient for the working class and rural populations, because they only offer care during limited hours.
“I didn’t only want to practice, I wanted to serve and help people,” Clayton said.
Clayton is not alone. Other nurse practitioners, some specializing in emergency and acute care, are founding private practices focused on serving patients conveniently. Another TTUHSC School of Nursing alumna, Vina De La O-Turner, MSN, ACNP, owner of West Texas ER, a private practice emergency room she opened with her husband John Turner, M.D., and partner Dan Berman, M.D., after graduating from the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) post-graduate program. Like Clayton, De La O-Turner sought to solve a common problem for patients with her practice.
“Our type of private practice, a free-standing emergency room, is a very popular trend right now to due to current health care issues,” De La O-Turner explained. “Primary care physician practices are very busy. Patients must schedule an appointment to see their physician, which can be up to two weeks away.”
De La O-Turner saw the free-standing emergency room model as a way to make health care more convenient for busy patients who do not have time to spend in a waiting room and resent being forced to wait weeks to see their doctor. West Texas ER recently opened in west Lubbock and offers an array of procedures including laboratory, radiology, ultrasound and CAT scan services without the wait.
“Our patients are typically working class families with insurance,” De La O-Turner said. “They want to see a doctor promptly and go home. If they cannot see their primary care physician, they don’t want to wait for hours at a busy hospital emergency room. At our free-standing emergency room, they can be diagnosed, treated and out the door within an hour.”
De La O-Turner’s service plan also includes providing the necessary attention to put each patient who comes into West Texas ER at ease, a connection that she feels is easily overlooked in the busy world of hospital emergency care.
“Our main goal is to strengthen the relationship with our community,” said De La O-Turner. “This relationship has suffered in busy hospital ER’s. Our practitioners and physicians have made it a priority to spend more time with the patient.”
De La O-Turner’s practice also sees itself as a new piece to fit within the traditional primary care system. As a fast alternative to hospital emergency rooms, West Texas ER strives to maintain a productive relationship with each patient’s primary care physician for the best possible patient outcome.
“Another goal is strengthen professional relationships with other medical entities in the community,” De La O-Turner said. “We want them to know that we are available 24 hours a day and are a true emergency room, that we do many referrals and try to maintain continuity of care by communicating with the patients’ primary care physicians.”
For nurse practitioners like Clayton and De La O-Turner, private practice has been a way to not only enjoy their own independence, but also intentionally practice with the patient’s interest at heart of every procedure done in their facilities.
“We wonder why the nation’s health care is in its current state and why people don’t
take active roles in their health care,” Clayton said. “I believe it’s partly because
health care has strayed from being a service industry. As health care professionals,
we entered this field to help people and we should think out of the box to do that.”