For the fifth year in a row, students from the College of William and Mary spent their spring break helping to serve the community at the Northern Neck-Middlesex Free Health Clinic (NNMFHC).
The NNMFHC is a site for William & Mary’s “Branch Out” program that focuses on community service. This year, from March 5 to 11, nine students traveled to Kilmarnock, stayed in the clinic’s Phyllis Smith dorm at the end of DMV Drive and spent their days and evenings working at the main facility as well as the Outreach Clinic in Montross.
“This week has been an awesome and extremely worthwhile experience that I’m sure we will all carry with us as we return back to William & Mary and beyond,” one student wrote. “The kindness, patience and compassion that we saw each and every staff member and volunteer exhibit non-stop this week set an example for how healthcare can be delivered to all without compromising dignity or quality of care. NNMFHC is a group of special people who move mountains for their community, and I am very grateful for being able to be part of your mission for the past week.”
During their week here, the students logged outdated patient charts, conducted specific chart audits, worked in the pharmacy, shadowed Medical Clinic providers, helped with eligibility screenings, took refill requests, made reminder calls and got to know the NNMFHC, the area, volunteers, staff and patients. A mid-week dinner also was held with W&M alumni in the Northern Neck.
They all appreciated the experience as much as the NNMFHC enjoyed and appreciated their work and demeanor. Among their comments:
• “I came to realize just truly how important free clinics are and how difficult they are to run….Volunteering at the clinic put a face on the numbers – seeing all of the people coming in each day made volunteering at the clinic an invaluable experience.”
• “I really loved hearing stories from the patients about their lives as well as hearing from the staff.”
• “I really appreciated how there was open and solid communication between the general practice and the pharmacy so both parties know exactly what is going on and conflicts can be resolved much faster.”
• “I had an absolutely life-changing experience….I realize how much the clinic actually relies on volunteers. I honestly felt I was making a huge impact within the limited amount of time I was here… I hope to volunteer even more this summer and in the coming years.”
“This was an exemplary group,” said executive director Jean Nelson. “The students were well prepared, willing to help in all areas and went about their work without hesitation. I can’t say enough about this program and how it lifts everyone’s spirits—staff, patients, and volunteers—while advancing the NNMFHC mission to help vulnerable populations.”