New London clinic has strong Western roots

A new nurse practitioner-led clinic in London, opening this fall, will bring peace of mind to the 3,200 more people who will be able to access health care closer to home.

With a strong Western presence, the Health Zone Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic’s team of staff will include four nurse practitioners, two registered nurses, a registered dietician, a social worker and the collaboration of a doctor.

The clinic is currently pre-registering patients for the fall. Patients can call 519-434-6848.

The clinic will focus on comprehensive primary care services including managing chronic conditions, preventing disease and health promotion, along with engaging community members, health care students and practitioners in working towards a common goal. Nurse practitioners are able to treat common illnesses and injuries, order lab tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests.

“Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics are a made-in-Ontario initiative that demonstrates our government’s commitment to increasing access to primary health care,” says Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “The Health Zone Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic will mean more access to health care in the London community for years to come.”

Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Co-Interim Administrative Lead, Health Zone Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic and Echo Chair in Rural Women’s Health Research at the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing says while the funding announcement was made in 2010, the past year has been very busy developing a structure for the new clinic, including establishing a non-profit corporation with a board of directions to development and operations.

“This Health Zone Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic is an innovative model that is designed to improve access to health care for our residents who currently don’t have a regular family health care provider,” says Ford-Gilboe. “The clinic has a comprehensive, team-based approach which will improve the health of our clients and the community.”

She adds the long term dedication and belief in the clinic idea by Western has played a major role in its success.  What started as a service learning project more than 10 years ago to allow the School of Nursing to make a meaningful contribution to the community, while enhancing clinical education for our students, it became one of the key fund raising priorities for the faculty in an early 90s campaign.

The idea captured the interest of the T.R Meighen Family Foundation who funded the initiative and a professorship with Ford-Gilboe held to lead the project for about seven years.

The success of the similar clinic at Merrymount Children’s Centre prompted Carole Orchard, associate Nursing professor and coordinator of Interprofessional Education Initiatives, to see how this model could be extended in other places and used as a basis for inter-professional education.

She and an interdisciplinary team, entered into a partnership with London Middlesex Housing Corporation to open two clinics in two London Housing Communities, funded by a short-term grant from Workforce Ontario. In spite of many efforts to secure longer-term funding the clinics, which opened in early 2009, we forced to close in April 2010.

But when the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care put out a call for proposals for nurse practitioners led clinics, Orchard and Ford-Gilboe drafted new successful proposal that went forward and were successful. Along with co-leading the development phase of the clinic over the past year, the two have committed to also co-lead the board for the first two years – Orchard as chair and Ford-Gilboe as vice-chair).

“We both see this as an opportunity to help this clinic make the transition from an academic project to one that is ‘owned’ by the community, integrated within the ‘the system’ and funded by Ministry,” says Ford-Gilboe. “This has been our goal for some time. It is a genuine example of how the university can and does contribute to our community and about how an good idea and a commitment to make it happen can result in meaningful change well beyond Western.”