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In rural Texas, patients are often left with two choices: travel long distances to the closest healthcare clinic or go without any care at all. With 3 million Texans living in rural areas—the population of some states—access to healthcare has long been a pressing concern. The Texas A&M University School of Nursing is taking a significant step towards addressing this issue with their groundbreaking program, the Texas A&M School of Nursing Mobile Care Access through Rural Engagement and Education (TXAN Mobile CARE).

Funded by a $4 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), they’ve pioneered a school-based mobile health clinic that’s rapidly changing lives and enhancing healthcare accessibility in rural Texas.

TXAN Mobile CARE is a nurse-led, primary care unit equipped with the resources to deliver essential healthcare services. It serves students, faculty, staff, and local communities in a school-based clinic model across five rural counties. Patients receive critical primary care services, including physicals, immunizations, screenings, substance abuse education, behavioral health support, and more.

Two NPs at the forefront of this endeavor are proud members of Texas Nurse Practitioners. We interviewed Nicole Kroll, Associate Dean for Clinical and Outreach Affairs for Texas A&M School of Nursing, and Elizabeth Ellis, one of the nurse practitioners on the front lines of the TXAN Mobile CARE clinic. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the communities they serve, and their commitment to rural healthcare is unwavering.

“With such a vast state like Texas, there are over 3 million individuals living in medically underserved rural areas,” Elizabeth said. “Our aim is to reverse these statistics, ensuring that all Texans receive the care they deserve by meeting underserved populations where they are, eliminating the burden of long journeys to urban healthcare centers.”

A crucial element of TXAN Mobile CARE’s success is the comprehensive team that drives it. Elizabeth is part of a dedicated team of two nurse practitioners, two social workers, community health workers, and a registered nurse. Together, they create a dynamic, multidisciplinary unit committed to delivering high-quality care, building strong relationships with the communities they serve, and helping patients navigate the complexities of the healthcare system.

TXAN Mobile CARE is not just a place for healthcare; it’s a cornerstone of the community. Everyone knows everyone, and the school nurse is often a go-to for healthcare advice. The mobile van takes this concept even further, becoming an extension of the healthcare services offered by the schools in these areas.

“We provide these nurses with point-of-care testing capabilities, and we’re actively working on introducing telehealth services,” Nicole said. “Our aim is not only to serve these communities during our visits but also to provide ongoing, multidisciplinary team care even when we’re not on-site.”

The primary mission behind this program is clear: to help reduce healthcare disparities in rural and underserved communities by providing access to healthcare. These regions, often characterized by their elderly and financially disadvantaged residents, are in dire need of accessible healthcare services.

Beyond providing immediate healthcare solutions, the program strives to inspire future healthcare professionals within these communities and nurture students in the schools they serve, fostering an interest in healthcare careers. This initiative aims to establish a healthcare provider pipeline with a deeper understanding of the specific requirements and challenges of rural populations.

“At A&M, over 50% of the NPs that graduate from our Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program go back into rural communities to serve,” said Nicole. “This is a deeply meaningful goal for us – to maintain and expand this tradition by actively recruiting students from those areas, enabling them to return to their communities and deliver healthcare to those in need.”

In just a few short months, the Texas A&M School of Nursing mobile clinic has touched the lives of countless rural Texans.

“We recently had a new family move to Texas–a mother, her son, and the grandmother,” Elizabeth shared. “The child had complex health issues and required urgent care. Our team swiftly mobilized, connecting them with the right specialists and resources. We didn’t just provide medical care; we took the time to educate them and answer all their questions. The family praised us as the most comprehensive healthcare providers they’d ever encountered.”

Although the mobile clinic has been in operation for just two months, the response from rural communities has been overwhelming. With multiple school districts now eager to participate and secure visits from the mobile unit, the team is considering future expansions and possible funding opportunities to continue their vital work.

As they look ahead, TXAN Mobile CARE has ambitious goals for the future. The team envisions the deployment of more mobile units, the establishment of a brick-and-mortar clinic, and the expansion of their outreach to further enhance healthcare accessibility in rural Texas. Furthermore, the program seeks to obtain rural health clinic accreditation, enabling them to continue serving these communities even after the initial grant period concludes.

TXAN Mobile CARE is breaking down barriers, delivering essential care to rural Texas, and empowering the next generation of healthcare professionals. It’s a transformative endeavor, guided by compassion, commitment, and a vision for a healthier, more equitable future.