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Nurse-Managed Health Clinics Help Fill Primary Care Gap in Milwaukee


A new primary care health clinic is opening today at Milwaukee’s Northside YMCA.

It’s a much-needed addition to the neighborhood’s sparse health care landscape. But what really makes this clinic unique is it will be run by nurses.

"Nurse-practitioner led clinics are very successful across the country and actually have very high customer satisfaction," says Children's Hospital CEO Peggy Troy. "There's something special about the relationship between a nurse and a patient."

Troy says nurses will be able to address most patients' needs at a lower cost; more complex medical care will be addressed through referrals to physicians.

The new clinic is the result of a partnership between Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Marquette University College of Nursing. Another of the collaboration’s nurse-managed clinics opened last week at the COA Goldin Center on the city’s North Side.

Troy says the locations of the two clinics were purposeful. Neighborhoods with high poverty often lack primary care options because most patients use Medicaid and reimbursement rates are so low. As a result, many in the inner city, particularly children, simply don't have access to quality primary health care.

"We want the children of Wisconsin to be the healthiest in the nation and we stack up to about the 50th percentile across the state, but when you get to the central city of Milwaukee, we drop to the fourth worst in the country in outcomes in health for kids," she says.

But Troy says the organizations recognized that it wasn't enough to just put a clinic in a neighborhood. It was important to work with community partners like the YMCA and the COA Goldin Center to keep the clinics financially sustainable and also get community buy-in.

"We are going to be able to demonstrate our effectiveness," says Marquette College of Nursing dean Margaret Callahan. "That will not only tell us we're doing a good job in inner city Milwaukee, but I firmly believe this will be a model that we're going to be able to demonstrate could be moved to other places not only in Milwaukee, but around the country."

Callahan says in addition to nurse practitioners, nursing students will work at the clinic, observing and practicing their skills. She says this is important to help students understand the complexities of community health problems and encourage them to work in these areas.

More of our conversation on the impact nurse-managed clinics could have in Milwaukee.