By Kate Hunger
When physical therapy student Adrian Frausto volunteers at the faculty and student-run clinic at Haven for Hope, he is gaining valuable practice he will use professionally in the none-too-distant future. But beyond honing skills, Frausto also is providing much-needed services to populations that otherwise would not receive them.
Taking that a step further would be fostering interprofessional exchange among the health professions in student-run free clinics, say Frausto, who coordinates physical therapy (PT) clinics, and Nikki Ralston, a physician assistant (PA) studies student. The pair gave a presentation in January on the potential for interprofessional volunteerism.
PT students offer physical therapy treatment once a month at Alpha Home, a nonprofit long-term substance abuse recovery center, and at Haven for Hope, the city’s center for services and shelter for the homeless.
“We would love to move to every other week,” said Mike Geelhoed, associate professor and Director of Clinical Education in the Department of Physical Therapy. Geelhoed explained that increasing the number of days would require additional faculty and alumni support.
Frausto and Geelhoed visited Haven for Hope in March of 2016 to see if PT students could establish a volunteer clinic there. The program was up and running shortly thereafter, Frausto said.
Students receive referrals from medical students and perform initial evaluations, take patient histories and formulate care plans. Many of the patients students see suffer from pain in the lower back, neck or knee, or arthritis.
“Everyone at some time needs help,” Frausto said. “Some of these people really need help. They do not have access to physical therapy. In my mind, if I can help these individuals a little bit, there’s a potential for them to go back to work, to feel better—I just see there is very much a need for these individuals to receive physical therapy and for someone to provide it.”
PT students began a clinic at Alpha Home in the fall of 2015. PA students also volunteer at Alpha Home, where they perform physicals, look at labs and make referrals to occupational therapy and physical therapy, Ralston said. Ralston has volunteered at Haven for Hope as an individual but said she would love to volunteer in a clinical setting. Developing a true interprofessional volunteer clinic at Haven for hope would help students as they move into their careers.
“It’s to build that relationship,” Ralston said. “It’s basically for our future patients. There won’t be any miscommunication and they will have a better outcome.”
Geelhoed sees the volunteer clinics as a win for all involved: Patients receive much-needed treatment, students are able to practice in a professional setting and the program receives an opportunity to teach students about diversity, pro bono service and cultural competence.
“My point all along is there are people right in our backyard who need help,” he said. “You can just go down there and just help them.”