Unique School-based Health Clinic Completes 15th Year in Pittsfield
A unique school-based health clinic that offers training for new doctors and free health services to students has completed its 15th year at Pittsfield Middle High School.
The Pre-Adolescent to Teen Center for Health, or PATCH, clinic sends medical residents from the NH Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency Program at Concord Hospital to the school to provide regular health, education, wellness and prevention services to Pittsfield students.
“Seeing students in their own environment provides Family Medicine residents valuable insight into the day-to-day issues of a teen’s world,” said Susan Hemingway, Community Health Specialist from Concord Hospital’s Family Health Center. “It also allows teens to access services and information that may be otherwise unavailable to them, while encouraging them to begin taking responsibility for their own wellness and health care.”
Hemingway coordinates the program with school nurses June Keusch and Melissa Miller, with support from the school and physicians at Concord Hospital Medical Group- Epsom Family Medicine, who supervise the medical residents participating as part of their pediatric training rotation. PATCH also works with the school’s guidance and health offices, substance abuse program services, staff, teachers, parents, students and community resources.
PATCH services are available free of charge to students whose parents have signed consent and to students who are 18 years old and can consent for themselves.
For the 2013-14 school year, there were 57 PATCH office visits. The top five issues were sports physical exams, assessing acute illness, psychiatric issues, health education and assessing injuries. Follow up education, counseling, and/or appropriate referrals were made.
Residents also spoke to classes about health issues, met with students interested in starting a school-sponsored Gay Straight Alliance and took part in an annual workshop to introduce first-year medical residents to the concept of working as partners with resources in the community to help deliver patient-centered, comprehensive and coordinated care.
The school health office and PATCH also sponsored the 10th Annual Wellness Day for students and staff, offering displays on topics including nutrition, substance free living, physical activity, distracted driving, healthy decision making and reducing stress. Some students earned class credit for researching health related topics and offering displays and presentations.
In addition, the PATCH program joined community, school and state agencies that formed a new group named the Pittsfield Interagency Community Coalition. Its mission is “to enhance the quality of life for all children, youth, young adults and families by connecting people, ideas and resources.”
The PATCH program is well-received by students, school officials and the new doctors who are able to see young patients at school, where the students may be more at ease than in a doctor’s office.
“They seemed to feel more comfortable being open and honest in a setting they were used to, which is not often the case in the office,” one resident wrote in a program evaluation.