Last week, Concordia University Texas' Nursing program unveiled its brand new Medical Mission Van. The van’s presence guarantees the availability of better accessible healthcare in the Austin community.
It’s no surprise that the Nursing program took the plunge to invest in this vehicle. After all, the program ranks fourth in the state's nursing programs. Director of the MSN program, Dr. Greta Degen, is excited about the countless opportunities the van will provide her students and the community, as having such a resource has been a lifetime dream of hers.
“Concordia is uniquely placed to do service in the community because of our mission and Christian background,” Degen said. “In addition to that, we run our nursing program differently than other universities do.”
So what is the Concordia difference?
“Typically, a student in a nursing program goes out to a site where a community nurse is already working,” Degen said. “When I came on six years ago, it didn’t seem students were learning much watching an overwhelmed community nurse doing their job.”
Degen said she took a step back and collaborated with the department to find other ways for students to get their experience.
“We decided it fit better within our mission to become the nurse in the community for people who have no nurse,” she said. “Not only are they role modeling what Concordia has to offer community but there’s this one-on-one relationship with our students and the people who need nurses in their lives.”
The van is equipped with the tools to complete free basic health assessments, such as a scale, blood pressure equipment as well as an expertise among the senior nursing students to be able to answer any questions patients may have about their medications, nutritional education or how to manage diabetes.
“Most of the vulnerable populations in Austin need a nurse,” Degen said. “Maybe it’s mental health. Maybe they are struggling with complex medications. Some people aren’t quite sure they should go see a doctor, but have symptoms. Others are dealing with managing chronic illnesses.”
Although this is a huge leap for the Nursing program, Degen sees this as something more than that.
“The vision for me is that we make this not about just nursing, but about Concordia impacting the community,” she said. “Maybe our case management students, mental health students, behaviorist students and future social psychologists are using it. There is just so much potential for dreaming.”
Degen encourages those who know of local groups or agencies that might benefit from a visit from the medical van to contact the university at 512-313-3000 and ask for Dr. Degen.
“There are countless possibilities,” Degen said. “We can take it to places like health fairs, food pantries, jails, local crises centers and homeless shelters. Maybe we will take our own mission trip and take the van out in the future.”