This March, Marymount students and faculty partnered with Remote Area Medical (RAM) to provide care to underserved communities. Since its founding in 1985, RAM has provided free medical, dental, and vision care to hundreds of thousands of people through the operation of mobile medical clinics. RAM operates its mobile clinics in communities in the United States and abroad and aims to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing free, competent, and compassionate healthcare to those who are impoverished, isolated, and underserved.
Marymount Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) students and faculty have participated in four mobile clinics in Virginia over the last 4 years. They have traveled to Buena Vista, Emporia, Warsaw, and Harrisonburg, and are scheduled to volunteer again in Emporia in June 2019. Thirteen BSN students and three faculty participated in the 2-day RAM event in Harrisonburg this past March.
Medical, vision, and dental services are provided by healthcare volunteers. The greatest needs are for dental and vision services. Mobile dental and vision clinics are set up in fieldhouses, fairground buildings, or schools depending on the location. Community residents line up overnight in hopes of receiving one or more services. In Harrisonburg, patients and families spent the night in their cars and lined up in a wintery mix of weather. RAM reported that over 600 patients received care at the event. Under the supervision of MU nursing faculty, our students were assigned to the triage area to collect health information on each client before medical, vision or dental services were rendered. This included vitals signs, blood sugar readings, medical history, and medication information.
This is often the first-time students have the opportunity to meet and engage with underserved rural community members whose needs are inadequately met by our current health care systems. Health disparities related to inadequate access to affordable oral health and vision care are most prominent. Those volunteering remark about how impressed they are by the strength and resilience of community members who often deal with multiple life challenges.
Our Nursing Faculty have witnessed our students create a trusting environment for individuals; show respect, compassion, and concern; and recognize that we are in partnership with all of the individuals and families that are served by RAM. As faculty, our hope is that students will be inspired to serve as nurse advocates for underserved communities, advocating for policies to improve access to oral health, vision care, and health care services.