Children and families in need of health care in rural Texas communities are being visited by mobile nursing clinics dispatched from the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) with support from Amerigroup Texas.
These “clinic road trips” — using a 40-foot-long, medically equipped orange bus — were launched more than a year ago to connect UT Health San Antonio nurses and nursing students with Texans who would not otherwise have access to vital services. The visits have reached more than 300 individuals so far, with wellness checks, immunizations and vaccinations, and a range of other exams and services that are most effective through in-person care.
The mobile clinic will visit the Avance Head Start Center in Uvalde, Texas, 215 W. Nopal Street, at 10 a.m. on Feb. 22.
Amerigroup Texas has provided $150,000 to support the program, which is directed by Cindy Sickora, DNP, RN, FAAN, vice dean of practice and engagement at the School of Nursing. She also oversees Wellness 360, the school’s clinical practice.
“These visits and personal interactions are so important to keep children and families healthy,” Sickora said. “They play an important role in communities where people don’t always have wellness checks or regular care. If we weren’t serving these kids, no one else would be. I am grateful for Amerigroup’s support.”
Amerigroup’s grant for rural mobile unit health visits is one of dozens of investments the organization has made to advance health care across Texas, especially in underserved communities. Texas has the largest population in the nation of residents who lack regular access to health care, and the problem has worsened in rural communities in recent years, with many hospitals and clinics closing.
“We are committed to addressing the health needs of our most vulnerable and underserved Texans, especially children and families who face barriers when it comes to accessing care,” said Dr. Cealee Thomas, Medical Director of Amerigroup Texas. “Our collaboration with UT Health San Antonio is making a positive difference in some of the most medically underserved areas of our state. This is something we are proud of and serves as a driver for Amerigroup to continue investing in innovative solutions that enhance the lives of Texans across the entire state.”
UT Health San Antonio has used mobile clinics in the past to reach Texans with needs, including providing care after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and offering COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. The latest outreach efforts began early last year.
They have included more than 30 visits to sites in Bexar County, Uvalde and Castroville. At each location, Amerigroup identifies patients in need of checkups and medical care, and UT Health San Antonio provides the staffing, resources, and personal care and attention. Future events are planned.
Up to five health care professionals are dispatched for each visit, including nurses and nurse practitioners, along with graduate and undergraduate students. UT Health San Antonio faculty frequently supervise graduate and undergraduate nursing students so they can work directly with patients and learn about rural health care.