By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
CENTERVILLE — When 2-year-old Emily and 2-month-old Lila developed “croupy colds” a few months ago, their mother, Erin Thomas, took them to Quick Care Mercy Medical Clinic on Mercy Medical Center’s campus. She wouldn’t have had that option a year ago. The clinic, which opened in December and added weekend hours in May, is a godsend to the Centerville mom and other families and individuals in the area.
Thomas first visited Quick Care Mercy with Emily shortly before Lila was born. Emily was suffering from a bad cold and started screaming in pain. Their doctor’s office was a half-hour drive away. And “getting in to see someone wasn’t quick. They didn’t have urgent care,” Thomas said.
Before Quick Care Mercy’s opening, adults and children dealing with acute illnesses such as the flu, ear infections or sprained ankle, often went to the hospital emergency room if they couldn’t get into the medical clinic. But that added to the long line in the emergency room, which is intended for life-threatening medical emergencies.
Mercy Medical Clinic’s expanded hours and the addition of three advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to serve the on-site quick care clinic has resulted in a dramatic increase in patient visits. Six walk-ins were reported in December, the first month Quick Care Mercy opened.
Between December and June, the clinic saw 762 walk-in patients, said Mercy Medical Center Vice President Ann Young. In the month of June alone, 286 walk-ins sought help at Quick Care Mercy. “It really fills a need,” she said.
Unlike metropolitan communities where urgent care clinics have become part of the landscape, many rural communities such as Centerville face the twin challenges of fewer health care providers and long commutes for patients seeking urgent care. Young knows of people who traveled 40 minutes by car to Ottumwa to access an urgent care clinic.
In Centerville, people found it difficult to schedule regular appointments with their doctor, let alone same-day visits. Per IRS requirements, Mercy Medical Center conducts a community health needs assessment every three years. “The last one (conducted in 2016) made it very clear that urgent care was the number one need,” Young said.
“We made the decision that we were going to recruit three advanced practice registered nurses and start out by expanding our hours.” Two APRNs were recruited last fall and the third joined the team earlier this year. The clinic’s hours were expanded to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Weekend hours — 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. — were added in May.
Patients can make same-day appointments or walk in. “I think people are really appreciative of the services we offer,” said Jackie Stajcar, APRN. “Some days we’re super busy and some days we’re slower. You never know from day to day.” All three APRNs work three, 12-hour shifts. “As nurses, we’re all used to 12-hour shifts,” she said.
Having previously worked in the emergency room, Stajcar knew that some people showed up there because they didn’t have another option. Now they have that option.
The APRNs treat kids who wake up sick. They see people with coughs, shortness of breath, migraine headaches, the flu, and urinary tract infections. “We see anyone from tiny babies to the elderly,” Stajcar said. As a result, primary care providers are freed up to focus on their patients, according to Young.
Back in April, the visit to Quick Care Mercy eased Centerville mom Erin Thomas’ mind. An APRN diagnosed baby Lila’s virus and said she could be treated at home. Later, when Erin visited her doctor for a regularly scheduled appointment, the doctor confirmed the diagnosis.
“It was almost like getting a second opinion … it gave me confidence in their (APRNs’) abilities to diagnose,” Erin said. “They were able to get us in within 15 minutes … you’re seeing someone right away and not sitting for three hours in the ER,” Thomas added. “You can’t wait until Monday when you have a little kid you know has something wrong and has a fever.”
What is an APRN?
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) have earned a master’s degree in their field and are able to provide many kinds of primary care. They can assess a person’s health, take a health history, perform a physical exam, order tests and develop a treatment plan. APRNs can prescribe medication and order outpatient IVs.
They treat acute problems such as ear infections, sore throats, insect bites and poison ivy, stomach problems, sprains, strains and non-complex fractures. “We might get people with migraine headaches, with the flu, influenza, vomiting or urinary tract infections,” said Jackie Stajcar, APRN, who works in the Quick Care Mercy Clinic in Centerville. “It’s nice to provide these services to people and to take care of their needs.”