PSD, hospital partnering for nurse practitioner pilot
Floyd-Polk 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 and Polk Medical Center was joined by Chris Bulter, the Director of Corporate Health for Floyd and Polk Medical Centers, and Polk Medical Center Hospital Administrator and Chief Nursing Officer Tifani Kinard all came to talk about the plans for 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.
Bulter laid out 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, 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.
Butler said he knows that parents might be reluctant to let their children see a healthcare 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.”
Butler said the wellness visits matter, because people might assume they are healthy and everything in their bodies is working the way it should though have 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.”
He added that instead of billing parents or school staff directly for services, visits to the nurse practitioner via the pilot program either for a wellness visit will be billed to private or government insurance providers like Medicaid without patients getting an immediate bill. Under the Affordable Care Act rules, one wellness visit per year is covered by insurance without cost to the patient.
No decision has yet been made on how they will handle students or staff without any insurance coverage.
Bevels talked about the partnership already in place with the school district that provides nurses through the hospital 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.
The new pilot is set to be part of an overall mission of hospital officials via the Live Well Polk program to increase health awareness, accessibility and utilization of services throughout the county. Bevels cited their initial push of the program into the Polk was due to health scores coming in first or second in a number of problematic areas, like the rates of heart disease, cancers, diabetes and many more ailments trending upward more than any of the other surrounding counties.
“In this situation, it’s not good to be first or second place in cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, a variety of types of cancer, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle,” he said. “Polk ranked higher in all of those issues.”
Assistant Superintendent and College and Career Academy CEO Katie Thomas said the district already has a big need from the program: help in ensuring student health issues are being addressed before they snowball into bigger issues.
“The number one thing we’re seeing that we need is vaccinations need updating,” Thomas said.
Assistant Superintendent Greg Teems added that at least one school required letters sent home to more than 30 parents who faced their children being left out of enrollment for the coming year if shots weren’t updated immediately.
The hope is that with a nurse practitioner in place on a rotating basis at each school, the district will be able to better control issues like vaccination by avoiding children having to leave school to go to a doctor for a shot. Instead, a time could be scheduled before, during or after school hours to take care of the needed updates.
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 180day 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.
Butler added testing will be required during the summer months and space at the central office might need to be borrowed for that purpose ahead of students coming to school.
School board members did ask if the nurse practitioner will have the ability to write prescriptions, and the team that came to discuss the program did say they would but only in cases where students or staff members need medicine like Tamiflu or to clear up an infection.
Initially, Butler said the program was slated to be tested out with Rome City Schools via a partnership with Emory University and that looks to be started sometime in 2020.
“When we realized it wasn’t going to work as quickly with as we thought it might with Rome, Tifani (Kinard) and I worked quickly to jump on that loose ball,” Bevels said. “Honestly, wherever we go when we talk about education we talk about how forward thinking Polk School District is and local leadership has done a terrific job of touching on everything a student needs. We’re thrilled to be involved in this.”
City Manager Jeff Ellis (center) is one of two of Rockmart’s management team getting a raise this year.
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.