Student Nurse Gains Unique Insight on Local Health Care Access


Winner of Pfizer scholarship shares externship experiences online

The winner of a pilot scholarship program from Pfizer Inc. has taken to the Internet to share her experiences with uninsured and under-insured patients in the greater Kalamazoo area.

As an extern at the Family Health Center, Jennifer learned quickly that not everyone has easy access to health care. "There’s a learning curve for me in general with diversity and socioeconomics. I’m learning to step back and put my beliefs aside," said Jennifer.

She is a Kalamazoo Valley Community College nursing student who received the Pfizer Community Healthcare Education and Service Scholarship. The scholarship helps to cover educational expenses over the last two semesters of Jennifer’s second year of nursing school at KVCC. She is also being paid to work this summer at the four locations of the Family Health Center, which provides quality health care to patients regardless of their income or insurance coverage.

Jennifer is sharing insights about her experience on a blog found at http://familyhealthcenterkalamazoo.wordpress.com/. Jen's responsibilities at the Family Health Center include health care education outreach, clinical care assistance, and other related tasks. Jennifer said she was surprised and humbled to receive the scholarship and said she almost didn’t apply.

Kendra Stetser Rowe, Director of Community Relations at the Family Health Center, said she thinks partnerships that enable nursing students to work directly with health center patients are beneficial for everyone involved. "It bridges the world between privilege and need and helps heal that divide. It also helps us to provide state of the art care to our patients," she said. "Jen won the scholarship. She’s a great student which means our patients are accessing the best care and that’s really critical. I hope it expands."

Jennifer said she has appreciated getting to know staff members and patients at each clinic. "Everyone’s been open to showing me new experiences. It’s been a good opportunity just to see things. It’s been quite the learning experience."

Jennifer credits KVCC’s nursing department staff with helping to prepare her for the experience. "KVCC has been awesome as far as teaching me for the real world. My instructors have definitely prepared me thus far. I cannot tell you how many times this summer it has all made sense to me. It’s all coming full circle. It’s amazing to see how well they’ve prepared us," she said, explaining that she’s witnessing firsthand some of the situations that have been discussed in the classroom.

Gloria Barton Beery, Director of KVCC’s Nursing Department, agrees that the scholarship has provided an awesome opportunity. "We were excited about giving a student the opportunity to extern as an L.P.N.," Barton Beery said. "Working knowledge is so critical to student success in the field." She said Jennifer was a good choice as the scholarship recipient because she’s already involved in so many community activities.

Barton Beery said she also thinks it’s important for the community’s health care practitioners have a broad perspective of diversity in terms of economics and quality of care. "This partnership with two great health-care organizations, Pfizer and Family Health Center, promotes local health while educating the community on needs and resources," she said.

Jennifer has been an active volunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Club and Cookies for Cancer. She and her husband have two young children. "I just try to help out in any way I can," she said.

Jennifer’s schedule at the health center changes every three weeks. She visits the Family Health Center locations on Patterson, Portage Street, Centre Street in Portage, at Edison School, and at Healthcare for the Homeless in downtown Kalamazoo. She said she’s becoming comfortable in each setting and discovering that change is ok. "The scholarship has opened up such an awesome opportunity for me," she said. "To be able to continue my education over the summer and to freshen up on my nursing skills puts me ahead of the game. Kalamazoo Valley really does blend well. They really know what we need to know."

She said the experience has reinforced her desire to become a nurse. "This experience has guaranteed me that this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s an eye-opening experience on a daily basis."