Feet shuffled along a narrow line of stomped-smooth snow. Gloved hands held handkerchiefs to noses or guided small children. The sun’s rays filtered through icicles which hung from lampposts and touched the faces in line, promising a day of relief from a bitterly cold night.
Standing by the window in her office at Covenant College in Georgia, College Nurse Practitioner Tina Holt recalled the years she cared for people who had no health insurance and little access to any type of health care. She remembered working at the Health Mobile and a time when she stuck her head out of the door of the tractor-trailer-sized health unit and called for the next patient. The line shifted forward slightly, and laughter could be heard from a family towards the start of the line. A father held a small girl in his arms, while a teenage boy told a story to the little girl, making her giggle through intervals of weak coughing.
Tina warmly greeted and ushered in a thin man with bags under his eyes, wrapped in an oversized winter coat. She knew this patient from his previous visits to the Health Mobile. His name was Mr. Labosky, and he had hyperthyroidism, a condition that she has been helping to subdue for some time. After checking Mr. Labosky’s progress and making sure there were no new symptoms, Tina bid him farewell. Next, she called in the family of four.
The family had been sharing a cough for some weeks now. The two-year-old little girl, Lana, seemed to be having a pretty hard go of it. After examining them for the possibility of pneumonia, Tina prescribed medicine to the three older family members, and Lana was placed on the examining table for her turn. After careful inspection, Tina discovered that Lana had undiagnosed asthma which had been exacerbated by the cough. Tina prescribed steroids and an emergency inhaler. She instructed the parents to keep Lana’s nose and mouth covered while outdoors. As Tina opened the van door and said goodbye to the family, the crisp sunlight split into the warm interior of the van, making her blink.
Quickly, Tina was pulled back into reality at Covenant College. Snow was piling up on the windowsill outside, but there were no patients at her door, yet. It was early morning at the end of Christmas break. Students who had caught colds and the flu from younger siblings over the break would soon be fighting their way into her office to receive care. Much had changed from her time in the Mobile Health Unit, but some things would always stay the same – as long as she was a nurse practitioner that is.
Tina’s morning at Covenant College passed with a storm of email responses and Flu-Shot-Week promotions; she was also director of Health Services, a full-time job in and of itself. Her coworkers, three counselors, a nurse, a secretary and a few work-study students, filtered in and out during the day. Tina wrapped and supplied crutches for a twisted ankle, stemmed a bloody nose and prescribed antibiotics for a cold, all before her lunch break.
She remembered her two years in the Urgent Care at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Georgia. It was there she learned to suture lacerations. However, this skill wasn’t in high demand in a college setting and, if a situation occurred, she would bandage the wound and refer the student to the emergency room. Tina missed the high intense pace of health care, but was also grateful for the ability to re-enjoy college life surrounded by students, staff and faculty, who were in need of her presence at the school.
Tina Holt had gotten to know many of the students at Covenant College as well as the staff and faculty. She had been enveloped in a unique community unlike any she had experienced during her time in the Urgent Care and the mobile health unit. In some ways, life was less severe here. However, with her responsibilities as nurse practitioner and Health Services director, she would see a dozen students on a daily basis and was instrumental in keeping a community of more than 1,200 people healthy.