VUSN Helps Open New Clinic

The clinic team on opening day, from L to R: Terri Crutcher, Christian Ketel, Bonnie Pilon, Aaron Scott, Bryn Evans and Kimberly Word. Photo by Joe Howell.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and Urban Housing Solutions have partnered to open a new clinic in one of the most underserved communities in Nashville.  The Clinic at Mercury Courts officially opened in August, with the goal of providing high-quality, low expense primary care to people of all ages.

“We worked with Urban Housing and local residents for more than a year to get meaningful input,” said Bonnie Pilon, DSN, NE-A, FAAN, senior associate dean for Clinical and Community Partnerships.  “We knew accessibility and convenience were important, as well as trusted practitioners, a bright and nice-looking facility and a sense of community ownership.”

The clinic is located on the property of Mercury Courts, a 1940s motor lodge that serves as transitional housing for formerly homeless or low-income individuals in the Murfreesboro Road area.  The 1,600-square-foot facility includes four examination rooms, a lab and a medical preparation area.

Mercury Courts resident May Robinson attended the ribbon cutting ceremony because she wanted to be the first patient.  “This clinic is so convenient.  I can get right in and right out and get the care I need,” she said.

The clinic anticipates seeing 900 to 1,000 patients during its first 12 months.  Though located in Mercury Courts, the clinic is open to the public and strategically located for easy walking or transportation via the city bus system.  The project team consists of Pilon, Assistant Dean Terri Crutcher, MSN, RN, Instructor of Clinical Nursing Christian Ketel, MSN, RN-BC, and Bryn Evans, who will continually assess needs and make any tweaks along the way.  Future plans may include adding a behavioral health component and expanding hours into the evening and on Saturdays.  The clinic will also be used as a hands-on training ground for nursing students and other health providers.

The clinical staff is comprised of VUSN graduate Aaron Scott, FNP, and Kimberly Word, medical assistant, who will work closely with Urban Housing Solutions’ Health Advocate Traci Patton.  They will provide care as well as health education to clients.

“This clinic is important,” said Patton.  It’s not ‘just a clinic,’ it’s an opportunity to open the door for better things in this community.”

Pilon believes that clinics, like Mercury Courts, are an important part of the health care system in Nashville, allowing people to get quality care close to home.  She points out that area Emergency Departments are often overcrowded due to an influx of non-urgent patient conditions, such as the flu. The services provided at Mercury Courts can go a long way toward getting clients diagnosed and treated quickly, and keeping them from unnecessary visits to area Emergency Departments.  The clinic has a referral network for clients with more complex health care needs.

“We’ve got a beautiful facility, great equipment and an excellent staff,” said Pilon.  “The key is building trust in the community. We are working closely with Urban Housing Solutions to make sure everyone knows about this new resource and reaching out to nearby retailers and employers in an effort to become their go-to place for any primary care needs.”

Late this summer, VUSN landed a State of Tennessee Safety Net Grant that will allow clinic staff to see public housing residents for free, and offer significantly reduced fees for medications and lab work.  Other clients have a $20 visit.  With the start of flu season this fall, the clinic mounted a public health campaign, offering flu shots for free or reduced prices.