Bellin College Pediatric Health Centers provides access to healthcare for children at Encompass

Access to quality healthcare services is something many U.S. citizens take for granted. Regular care is essential for promoting and maintaining health, preventing and managing disease, and reducing unnecessary disability and premature death. Oral health care is as equally important in preventing disease. For some Brown County residents, access to regular care is difficult due to costs or inadequate insurance coverage. Community resources that offer services to those in need make a stronger community and improve the quality of life for all Brown County residents.

In 2006, NEW Community Clinic approached Bellin College to develop a three-way partnership to provide free healthcare to children at the Rosebush and Cornerstone Encompass Early Education Child Care sites. Both sites were purposefully built in low-income neighborhoods to provide families living in poverty with access to childcare. Encompass is a not-for-profit organization, which has been providing childcare to children of our community since 1919 and has seven daycare sites in Brown County.  Encompass gives children an opportunity to learn early childhood curriculum so that they are school ready by the time they start kindergarten. It also provides summer care and before/after school care to children up to age 12.

Bellin College Pediatric Health Centers were established as part of the partnership to provide free healthcare services to the children at both Encompass centers. For more than 11 years, Lynn Murphy, assistant professor of nursing at Bellin College, has been going to each center two times per week to provide well and ill healthcare visits free of charge. This grants the children of the Rosebush and Cornerstone Encompass and Early Education Child Care sites to have easy access to healthcare. NEW Community Clinic provides the support staff, administration and supplies needed to run the clinic. Bellin College provides the nurse practitioner and the hours as well as the exposure for students to see the unique clinic site.

“The goal of the partnership is to provide the families with high financial need with access to healthcare that is free, easily accessible and a resource for health-related concerns. We see children from six weeks old through kindergarten age. It is a unique way to practice as a pediatric nurse practitioner,” explains Murphy. “I get to see these children every week, wherein a traditional clinic you only see your patients once a year during a well-child visit or to treat an illness. You notice small changes in the patient faster because you see them so frequently. The center directors and classroom teachers are really my eyes and ears and notify me when there may be a healthcare or developmental concern with an infant or child.”  

Murphy also educates the teachers and family members. She helps parents prepare to care for their children, identify when a child is sick, and provides them with interventions and remedies they can try at home. Murphy works with developmental concerns, children that are developing well and others that will need some extra help. She also helps teachers identify children who have some significant concerns and what interventions they can do not only at the center, but also at home with the parents.

Throughout the academic year, Murphy is joined by Bellin College senior nursing students for shadowing and clinical hours. Murphy invites students to the sites to give them exposure to children in different age groups ranging from six weeks to 12 years of age. Students get to assess children and observe Murphy’s role as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Sometimes they will assist with teaching projects such as the cardiac system, nutrition, and risks of smoking and dental care. Students will also perform dental exams and apply fluoride varnish. The purpose of using fluoride varnish is to increase access to preventive dental treatment to intercept and prevent early childhood caries in children at moderate to high risk for dental caries. Exposing students to the Bellin College Pediatric Clinic at Encompass provides them with not only nursing experience, but also what it means to serve their community.

Murphy uses experiences from the pediatric clinic at Encompass as examples in the classroom. The real-life experiences often connect with the content students are learning in class. Murphy cares for approximately 200 children at the centers and has a variety of situational examples, which resonate well with theory content.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to be sent out by the College, to represent Bellin and to be a service to the community by providing free healthcare services to those most in need,” said Murphy.

Donated healthcare services provided by the centers quantify approximately $95,000 to $110,000 on an annual basis. Many of the families work minimum wage jobs and wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive the care they need due to financial strain and lack of access to transportation. Murphy also provides donated medication to the families as needed, and they are so appreciative of all the services offered.  

“The student body and Bellin College faculty and staff have been so generous with their financial donations to the needs of the children and their families at the centers”, said Murphy. 

This partnership shows that Bellin College is not only an educational institution, but also a healthcare provider who plays a big part in serving the community.

In 2017, Bellin College provided:

  • 751 acute care visits.
  • 11 child care physicals.
  • 25 complex developmental assessments.
  • 52 Ishihara color deficiency screenings.
  • 242 fluoride varnishes.
  • 110 acute care visits performed for staff members.
  • 12 Foster Grandmother physical history/exams.
  • 22 Bellin College nursing students spent service hours at the clinic sites.
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