Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles about the activities that will take place inside the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences.
U.S. health care is changing. And a Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences faculty member thinks he sees the future.
Jeff Spicher, assistant professor, Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and former chair of the graduate nursing program, will help direct a nurse-managed clinic at the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences. He believes nurse-run clinics that operate in a holistic manner with other health care professionals are the future.
“Health care is in flux,” Spicher said recently. “It’s morphing in front of our very eyes. You can say that we’re involved in a grand experiment. You can’t bring 30 million people into the system without change. We have to innovate.”
Spicher’s enthusiasm about creating a clinic that changes the model of health care is palpable. It’s also not a new concept for him. With more than 15 years of experience as a family nurse practitioner, as a former clinic director of the County City Medical Clinic that served the employees of the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County, and current involvement with the UCCS Student Health Center, Spicher has seen first-hand how nurse-managed clinics can make a difference.
“Unfortunately, the experience that many people have with their primary care physician is that of a five minute drive by visit,” Spicher said. “The problem is noted, a pill prescribed and the patient dismissed. Next.”
While the current model may work for some people, Spicher envisions a system where patients are given choices about their care and an explanation of the benefits of each choice is shared. Using the example of a patient who visits the clinic because of a sore throat, Spicher sees one treatment option as a throat swab to test for bacteria and, if positive, an antibiotic prescription. Another more holistic approach is to explore with the patient his smoking habit and providing behavioral therapy to help quit smoking which may in turn end the source of the sore throat.
“We want to give control back to the patient,” Spicher said “What we envision is a partnership with the patient and provider making the decisions collaboratively.”
“I can tell somebody that they are 50 pounds overweight,” Spicher said. “But helping them work to create a plan to lose that weight — that’s more difficult and where behavioral health experts assist in creating a plan along with specialists in nutrition and exercise. That’s what is going to make our clinic unique.”
Having advanced practice nurses, exercise specialists, and nutritionists all residing in the same place and working as a team means a referral won’t be across town and a three-week wait. It might be across the hall and three minutes. Spicher even envisions the day a patient is directed to the right health care professional based on responses to an intake questionnaire.
When the Lane Center opens in January 2014, the nurse-managed primary care clinic will be open for business. Faculty, staff, students and community members will be able to visit and receive help with acute issues such as a sore throat, runny nose or minor infection and help with long-term issues including diabetes, hypertension, or weight loss. University and most other insurance plans will be accepted.
The clinic will be staffed by advanced practice nurses and have masters students who are working toward their nurse practitioner certificates. In addition, a few students in the doctorate of nursing practice program will be utilized to help analyze clinic activity and patient response to it. That data will be used to make decisions about what’s working at the clinic, Spicher said, and as the basis for research studies so the experiences at the UCCS clinic can be replicated elsewhere.
“We’re not here to replace your primary care physician,” Spicher said. “We’re another option. We can be your primary health care provider or work to augment services that your primary care provider is already offering.” “The ultimate objective for the Lane center clinics are to partner with you to reach your optimal health and wellness goals.”