Students gain experience in health care services for the Manhattan community

(Photo Courtesy of Susan Reed)

K-State pre-health students have the opportunity to shadow working health care providers at the Flint Hills Community Clinic for a year in order to gain experience in the health care system.

Susan Reed, executive director of the Flint Hills Community Clinic, spoke to a class of journalism students in a news meeting on April 12 at Via Christi Hospital regarding the health care system and how these K-State students are learning from the clinic.

This clinic provides free medical care for Riley County and Manhattan citizens who are uninsured and at least 200 percent below the poverty level. All of the health care providers who work at the clinic are volunteers, Reed said.

The clinic allows for the students to shadow and assist one-on-one with a health care provider. Sherryl Allen, College of Arts and Sciences adviser, said this idea of giving back is part of what benefits the students.

“The students get to see that although doctors have demanding schedules and limited time, many find a way to devote their efforts and expertise to combat health care disparities, which they obviously deem critical,” Allen said.

As discussed in the news meeting, these health care disparities can refer to things like the level of care for those who have health insurance in comparison to those who do not. On one level, this can refer to patient interactions.

“I really want students to see this before they get into it,” Reed said. “I don’t want everyone to go through school and get into their brand new offices and can’t talk to a patient.”

Reed said patients can be upset if it appears a doctor does not have the time for them.

Allen said patients can tell if a doctor is not legitimately involved.

“If you’re going into health care you really need to really, sincerely care about and want to help people,” Allen said. “It’s not always just a fluff job. Your heart has to be in it, and patients will know if you are working for a check and not from the heart.”

Reed said it is important, however, as a patient to speak out when in a medical facility and not receiving adequate care and attention.

“You have to ask questions, you have to be knowledgeable about yourself, what’s going on with you, what can be done with you,” Reed said. “Doctors and specialists, they don’t guide that ship, you do. So when you are in the hospital and you’re not getting good care, you have to say something.”

Kent Kerby, associate director of undergraduate studies in biology, said that dedication to the profession could take a student far when working in health care.

“For me, if you can get up every morning, go to work and help someone who’s really, really sick and you’re the lowest person on that health care team, then I know for sure that you have all the qualities to be the top person on that health care team,” Kerby said.

While this experience provides an example for pre-health students, the students have to show their dedication before ever being a part of the program. Kerby said the program actually started with students volunteering.

“It began initially where students could just volunteer there for a couple hours a month right into a program where they can deliberately work with a number of health care workers to really see health care in action as a team,” Kerby said.

Currently, the minimum requirement for volunteering is 20-30 hours before a student can be considered for a spot in this partnership, Allen said. Additionally, she said being a bilingual student also helps when applying for this opportunity because the clinic has patients that may not speak English.

But this program does not just benefit the students. Reed said that having the students is beneficial for the clinic because it allows the doctors to monitor the patients further and more sufficiently.

“It helps us do that continuum of care,” Reed said.

In addition to the benefits for both students and the clinic, Allen said it provides a connection between K-State and the rest of the community.

“This experience is important to link the campus community to the greater community,” Allen said.

Health care is not just a local topic, but also a political topic that is brought up on a national level. During the news meeting, Reed, who said many times these beliefs are her personal opinion, voiced concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare.

“It’s really, really super complicated and it seems the people it was made to help the most, it hurt the worst,” Reed said.

Because more people are paying for insurance, those people can no longer visit the free clinic because it’s only for those who are uninsured. Reed said that people who recently acquired insurance may not understand the concepts of deductibles and copays, which can cause confusion. For this reason she said it is important to understand health insurance before purchasing it.

Adding to that, the community is facing a lack of providers for Medicaid recipients seeking health care. Reed said many practices have stopped accepting new Medicaid patients due to the low government reimbursement for treating those patients. This ultimately would affect the provider’s financial bottom line.

Allen said this cycle is part of what makes the health care system so difficult to work out perfectly.

“We don’t want to put people out of jobs and we want people to have health care and we have to find a way to do both,” Allen said.

Reed said she believes, however, it is too late to remove the Affordable Care Act, given the time it has had to level out.

“I personally can’t see how it can be repealed without a lot of damage,” Reed said.

Due to the complexity of the health care system, students having the opportunity to experience it firsthand can help them later in their careers.

“We are totally grateful to Susan Reed for providing this unique experience for our students to have multiple opportunities to engage and to care for the undeserved while working with dedicated health professionals,” Allen said.

My name is Emily Moore and I'm a senior majoring in English and mass communications with a minor in leadership. I love to read, write and edit. During my free time, I enjoy doing crossword puzzles, rock climbing and spending time with my friends.