Collaborating with Students for Healthier Futures
Luke Loegering is a member of the 2015-16 College Health Corps (CHC) VISTA cohort. His interest in health equity began during his biology degree when he took several public health classes. He plans to continue on to medical school following his CHC year. He is serving with the Rochester Student Health Services at the Alternative Learning Center (ALC), which serves a diverse population of 7-12th graders at risk of poverty, family disruption, chemical addiction, mental health issues, and homelessness. One challenge has been to connect with students to make them aware of clinic services. To address this, he recently partnered with the ALC student-run news show to promote the clinic through short segments aired each school day. Keep reading to learn more about this innovative partnership!
1. Describe your role at the clinic. What are the main projects you’re working on and what are the overarching goals of the VISTA project?
My role in the clinic has two parts. The first is helping the clinic operate. This means fundraising and grant writing to fund the clinic’s activities. All of the medical providers and nurses at the clinic are volunteers, so part of my role is recruiting people to give their time and expertise. I am also creating or finding materials to help volunteer providers more effectively do their jobs, such as a volunteer handbook or patient education pamphlets.
The second part of my service is to expand the services offered by the clinic and in the school. Many community members are interested in providing services to ALC students. We currently have community members or organizations working to improve dental, mental, and chemical health and I encourage communication between all of our moving parts so services are not duplicated. This includes supporting the partnership between the clinic and Winona State University (WSU). Many undergraduate and graduate nursing students volunteer or conduct projects through the clinic. I work closely with the WSU faculty and students to support them in this.
One of my overarching goals through my year in service is to create a comprehensive health plan for the ALC. This would include plans and services to address physical, mental, chemical, and behavioral health and would integrate the ALC Clinic with community partners and school social workers. Some of the ALC’s new programs will have direct impacts, such as the new dental clinic days or the new substance abuse support group. My projects supporting the clinic’s operations will let the providers better treat the students who come into the clinic on regular days.
2. Describe your involvement with the student-run news show. How did this come about?
The ALC communications teacher gave a brief explanation of the weekly news show at one of our first staff meetings. It is about 15 minutes long and plays in a period called “advisory” which is like a short homeroom. I was looking for a way to talk directly with students about what was going on in the clinic and any health-related programs that may be going on in the school that I wanted to promote.
Every couple of weeks, students will come in and either record a segment I have come up with or interview me on a topic I suggest. This segment, which the students and I created and named the Health Minute, did not exist before my service started. Recently I got really excited because the students came to me with an idea for a Health Minute all on their own.
It has also been useful as a precedent for health messages that nursing students from WSU want to present. In preparation for the clinic’s Dental Day, the nursing students took over my Health Minute and presented information on dental care and encouraged students to sign up.
3. What positive impacts have you seen as a result of your news broadcasts?
I saw a drastic increase in people signing up for the clinic’s Dental Day after the WSU nursing students did their Health Minute. Before it aired, we were getting one or two students every few days. After it aired, we got 3-5 every day.
Additionally, the outside organization that ran our influenza immunization clinic was very impressed with the turnout for the very first flu clinic that ALC hosted. I did a Health Minute educating the students about the importance of getting immunized. While a small number of people showed up, between 15 and 20 people, flu clinics are very slow to start and we are anticipating growth each year. I’m hoping to see some behavior changes once we get into cold and flu season.
An additional cold and flu Health Minute pushed hand washing as well as information I gave about how to keep your immune system strong. We have not seen many cases of people with cold and flu yet so maybe it’s working already.
4. How do you think working directly with the students will contribute to the sustainability and capacity building of the ALC clinic?
Talking with the film crew gives me a chance to interact with individuals and that has a made a huge difference. I can easily talk to them and ask them what they would like to see in the clinic. I have also gotten their opinion on how my projects are resonating with the rest of the students.
The program itself lets all of the students know who I am so they can approach me with ideas of things I can help with in the school. It also is a constant reminder that there is a clinic in the school that offers a lot of services. Making the segment puts in place the form for someone to take over when I am gone. It may be another VISTA or, I would prefer, one of the volunteer providers or WSU nursing student teams.