CWRU Student-Run Free Clinic to open this fall

Medical students learn the ropes by staffing the free clinic.

Case Western Reserve University is introducing a new health option this fall for Greater Clevelanders.

The concept for the CWRU Student-Run Free Clinic was conceived about two years ago, said Lauren Rotman, the chair of development for the Student-Run Free Clinic (SRFC).

The program is inter-professional; medical students work hand in hand with nursing students. David Lawrence, a second-year medical student and clinical director at the SRFC, said the program is “extremely valuable for students.” The program eliminates the division between medical and nursing students, he said, noting that working as equals will help build more respect and understanding for one another.

February 2011 marked the first of four pilot sessions, which allowed students to see how their protocol would work. The students are put into teams of four, and each patient is assigned one team. Every team has a receptionist, who is a medical or nursing student, a junior clinician (a first- or second-year medical or nursing student), a senior clinician (a third- or fourth-year medical or nursing student), and a case manager, also a medical or nursing student. The clinic saw between 12-25 people a day during the pilot sessions.

Students complete an application and are interviewed in order to become a part of the program, and there are typically 12-20 students working in the clinic. Behind the scenes, however, Rotman said there are closer to 50 students.

The teams are each led by a volunteer licensed physician, typically a family practice or internal medicine doctor, but it can also be a nurse practitioner. The inter-professional program is used throughout the higher levels of the clinic, as well. 

The program benefits a variety of people, Lawrence said. In the short term, people in the Cleveland community who wouldn’t otherwise have healthcare now have access. And looking forward, the program will benefit future patients of the students.

By teaching the medical and nursing students to work well with each other, Lawrence anticipates an improvement in patient care. When your caregivers get along, you are bound to see an improvement in patient care, he said. 

The clinic does more than diagnose and treat patients. Case managers act as de facto social workers, as well. Recovery Resources, a behavioral health agency, volunteers some of its staff to teach the CWRU students what to ask and what to look for.

The case manager sees the patient again after diagnosis. Any socially related concerns the clinicians picked up on during an exam are relayed to the case manager, who helps find a solution. For example, if the patient is unemployed, the case manager may refer the patient to employment services.

Another feature the SRFC offers is free medication. If the patient elects to wait for about 30 minutes after a diagnosis, a courier will be sent on his or her behalf to retrieve the prescription or over-the-counter medicine from a nearby CVS. The patients have the option to pick up their prescription at any other location but will have to pay for it.

The clinic plans to run a few more pilot sessions before the grand opening Oct. 8. Once officially open, hours of operation will be every other Saturday 9-noon, although both Lawrence and Rotman hope that will increase to include every Saturday or possibly even twice a week. The clinic is run out of The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, located at 12201 Euclid Ave.

Those interested in donating should visit http://srfc.case.edu/.

rrosenberg@cjn.org

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