It’s about 4 p.m. on a recent Thursday afternoon in an upper room at Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church and Wenting Tong is looking out over a roomful of patients at the church’s Healing Gift Free Clinic.
“It’s filling up tonight,” says Tong, who is just completing her second year at the Creighton University School of Medicine. “But we’re ready. This is such a great experience for us as students.
“It’s an opportunity not only to work on clinical skills and get a fantastic learning experience, but it’s getting an opportunity to reach out, to work together, to be part of a team and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of people who need our help.”
Tong is one of dozens of Creighton students in the School of Medicine, the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions the College of Nursing and some undergraduates in pre-medical professional programs who have taken a hand in staffing the clinic, alongside Creighton faculty, Creighton-trained physicians, nurses and pharmacists.
In the clinic, student volunteers can fly solo while talking to patients in examination rooms and to interact with one another. Following consultations, medical professionals step in and discuss the patient interview with students, observe the communications between clinic and pharmacy, and take in the back-and-forth of life in a clinical setting.
“We can learn about medicine in textbooks and lecture halls,” says Ben Branigan, who began working at the clinic as a Creighton undergraduate and continues to serve, having just wrapped up his first year at the School of Medicine. “But the things I’ve picked up just being around great physicians at this clinic are the things that I’ll take with me in my own career. It’s been a great education.”
The interprofessional effort at the free clinic in the downtown church serves upwards of 50 patients over the four-hour span the clinic is open, providing examinations, consultations and filling prescriptions in a yoking of Creighton’s mission with providing an extension of the education students are getting in the classroom.
“We have a lot of patients who come here with an assortment of medical needs,” said Jenna Woster, PhD, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing who heads up the Creighton volunteer effort at Kountze, where she is also a parishioner. “So it is a chance for students and even our volunteering professionals, to ask questions and to address different problems, while also giving back as part of the larger community.”
The service element is paramount for the volunteers, all of whom recognize they are helping to serve a vulnerable population that sometimes gets overlooked: the working poor.