Providing ‘Health Safety Nets’ For Chicago Students

By Marilyn Wideman

For 20 years, the Rush University College of Nursing has provided health care to the Chicago community through nurse-managed community-based health centers. A hallmark of these health centers is providing care where individuals live, learn and work. The Rush School-Based Health Centers are a prime example of delivering accessible health care where individuals learn.

The College of Nursing has administered a School-Based Health Center at Crane and Orr High Schools for more than 16 years and at Simpson Academy for two years. Crane and Orr have students in grades nine through 12 and Simpson Academy is for girls in grades six through 12 who are pregnant, parenting or both. All three are public schools, have student bodies from underserved populations and are located in neighborhoods with high poverty levels.

The Rush School Based-Health Centers are health safety nets for these vulnerable students. The clinicians provide care by involving teachers, providing health outreach programs within classrooms, cafeterias and hallways, and providing comprehensive care in the school clinics. Clinical services are provided by advanced practice registered nurses, physicians and large numbers of Rush’s interprofessional students. The services include physicals, immunizations, treatment of injuries, intermittent care, mental health services, prenatal care and health care for the children of the students.

Outcomes of this health care and education collaboration include improved immunization rates, decreased incidence of infectious disease, decreased emergency room usage, detecting and treating illness, healthy baby deliveries, increased access to mental health services, success in pregnancy prevention programs, and students establishing healthy living patterns aimed at chronic disease prevention.

The impact of these clinics reaches beyond the immediate health outcomes for the students. The services include helping students apply for AllKids health insurance and connecting them with community support services. Additionally, the pregnant and parenting students at the Simpson Academy have nearly a 100 percent high school graduation rate and college acceptance rate thanks to the integration of education and health care. The health centers also provide Rush students with valuable learning experiences through exposure to care in the community, needs of diverse populations, futuristic models of care and interprofessional experiences.

Collaboration within Rush and with community organizations, city and state officials, philanthropic and education systems has been important to the overall success of the School-Based Health Centers. The work at these centers is reflective of Rush’s mission to provide the very best care for our patients and enhance excellence in patient care for the diverse communities of the Chicago area.

Marilyn Wideman is associate professor and associate dean of Faculty Practice and Community Engagement in the Rush University College of Nursing.

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