Polk School District to get nurse practitioner pilot program

Floyd-Polk Medical Center’s Dan Bevels, Tifani Kinard and Chris Butler were on hand to talk about a new nurse practitioner pilot program starting this fall in the Polk School District.

Floyd Medical Center and the Polk School District are partnering together for a new program starting in the 2019-2020 year in hopes of increasing the wellness of students and staff at campuses in Cedartown and Rockmart.

Dan Bevels, the public relations manager for Floyd-Polk Medical Center, was joined by Floyd Medical Center’s Director of Corporate Health Chris Butler and Polk Medical Center Hospital Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer Tifani Kinard to talk about the plans to provide a nurse practitioner within the district that will move from school to school on a monthly basis.

The ultimate goal, according to Bevels, is to establish healthy living habits as early as possible and maybe one day get Polk County residents to treat wellness visits the same way they do a trip to the dentist twice a year.

Butler laid out that the idea of the program is to give students and staff within the schools alike the opportunity to see a nurse practitioner stationed in a school for a month per school year, and rotate throughout all the campuses within the Polk School District.

“I’m going to say that it is primary care-like, because it’s not going to be a fully functioning primary care office, but probably about 90 percent,” Butler said.

Their main purpose is to provide services to “unattached kids and staff members” to help provide health care services that usually a primary care physician or pediatrician would handle. Butler said those who have a doctor they see regularly can utilize services, but it won’t replace their physician.

“This is to provide easy, convenient access for students and staff members to receive wellness exams. If they’re sick they can come see us for flu or strep throat,” he said.

Initially they were planning on partnering with Rome City Schools as the pilot program. Butler said they’re still expecting to bring the program to RCS sometime in 2020.

Butler said he knows that parents might be reluctant to let their children see a health care professional without them being present, but he also takes into account that because of their busy schedules at work, it isn’t easy getting students into the doctor’s office.

“We know this community is built around blue collar workers, most of the manufacturing here is productivity-based,” Butler said. “When you’re dealing with productivity-based, it’s really hard to take a day off work to take your child to have a wellness exam. What we want to do is try to create a wellness visit similar to a dental visit. Nowadays you go to the dentist at least every six months. We want to create that same habit.”

Wellness visits matter, he said, because people might assume they are healthy but there may be underlying issues that can turn into real problems later in life.

“We looked at our recent data in Floyd Primary Care and we noticed that from ages 10 to 39, people stop seeing a primary care doctor,” he said. “They’ll go to an urgent care instead. If I get sick, I don’t want to schedule an appointment, I want to go to urgent care and get amoxicillin or get a shot. I want to feel better. But we need that type of maintenance. We need someone to look over us regularly.”

One wellness visit a year is covered fully by private insurance and through the Affordable Care Act. Bevels said they haven’t hashed out what the process will be for students who have no insurance, but they’re still working on it.

FMC already provides nurses to each elementary, middle and high school campus throughout the year. The new pilot program seeks to increase the level of health care access within schools for students and staff alike and will be available before and after school hours as well.

Floyd Healthcare Management also provides the district with athletic trainers for both Cedartown and Rockmart high and middle school sports programs.

Butler said the hospital is currently recruiting a nurse practitioner to be the main force behind the pilot program for the coming school year, with a requirement they are able to work for the 180-day calendar. A local physician is also being sought out to act as medical director for the pilot.

“We’re hoping to be ready to go by Sept. 2,” Butler said.

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