The little center that could

The little center that could

UF’s nurse-managed health center thriving 10 years later

By Kathryn Stolarz

Lead nurse practitioner Denise Schentrup walks with a patient and student Jennifer Cassisi./Photo by Russ Brandt

Photo by Russ Brandt

Latrelle Sneed was struggling with health and finances — for some, a life-threatening combination. She had diabetes, lung cancer, thyroid problems and a family to feed.

Thankfully, her neighbor told her there was a place she could go for help: Archer Family Health Care. The nurse-managed center had just opened, only a few blocks from Sneed’s home in Archer. It was affordable and offered a range of health care services, including preventive care and illness treatment.

Sneed and her daughter, Amber Copen, were some of the center’s first patients 10 years ago. Today, they continue to go there for their health care. Copen brings her husband and children, a 3-year-old girl and a 4-month-old boy, for care.

“The providers and staff always treat me really well, and I trust them to take care of my whole family,” Copen said. “They’re just really nice and caring.”

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the College of Nursing’s Archer Family Health Care is one of only 250 comprehensive, nurse-managed health centers in the country and is the only health care provider in Archer. It has served more than 7,000 patients in and around Alachua County — more than five times the population of the city of Archer.

Beyond Archer, the center has earned national recognition. In March, the National Nursing Centers Consortium presented Archer Family Health Care with a certificate for its decade of service to the community.

“People come here, they love their practitioners and they stay,” says Denise Schentrup, D.N.P., A.R.N.P., the lead nurse practitioner at the center and a UF clinical assistant professor of nursing.


Humble beginnings

It all started when one Archer citizen attended a meeting at the UF Health Science Center and made a plea for a health care facility in Archer.

Although College of Nursing students and community health faculty members had been providing health education to area residents for 30 years, the town needed affordable primary care.

M. Dee Williams, Ph.D., R.N., the College of Nursing’s associate dean for clinical affairs, says she began to explore the feasibility of providing nurse-managed primary care in the area. She spoke with College of Nursing Dean Kathleen Long and, with support from the Health Science Center government relations office, they were able to secure state funding to do just what the citizen had requested — open a primary care practice in Archer.


One special place

Archer Family Health Care is part of a growing national movement to offer accessible, affordable, high-quality health care for the insured and uninsured alike. Patients are treated with respect. The nurse practitioners are able to spend ample time with patients and take a holistic approach to their health, said Joan Walker, practice manager for the past seven years.

Services include preventive care, treatment for illnesses and injuries, physicals, immunizations, lab work and mental health counseling.

About 80 percent of Archer Family Health Care patients earn below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and more than half have no health insurance.

“We determine what the patient can afford to pay based upon household income and number of dependents. We don’t turn patients away,” Walker said.

In addition to providing health education and primary care to the underserved, practicing faculty members supervise clinical education experiences for graduate students in the college’s master’s and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs.

“Not only is this a good thing for our students and residents in the Archer area, but it’s a good thing to show what nursing can do to address the health care needs of this country,” Williams said.


My, how it’s grown

This year alone, the center expects more than 6,000 patient visits — more than six times the number of visits the center had during its first year of operation. Back then, it was located in a small, two-story house built in the 1930s and staffed with just one nurse practitioner and an office manager.

The house’s original bedrooms were converted into exam rooms and also served as the practitioners’ offices. The kitchen became the lab, clinical pharmacy, and nurse’s station; the dining room was the receptionist’s area; and the living room was a waiting room, Walker said.

In 2007, the practice relocated to a one-story office building with twice as many examination rooms, a large lab, offices for staff and providers, a conference room and a large waiting room.

Now, six nurse practitioners with specialties in family, pediatric and mental health nursing, a family practice physician, two licensed practical nurses, two financial assistance counselors and a practice manager serve the needs of patients.

In March a new electronic health record system was implemented, made possible through a collaborative agreement with the Alliance of Chicago and membership in a consortium of 30 safety-net health centers across the nation. The center contributes to a national data set that measures and compares health care outcomes among consortium members.

“This nursing center is not just a little clinic in Archer; it’s part of a national solution to this country’s health care needs,” Williams says.

To learn more about Archer Family Health Care, please click here.