AHEC Scholars Assist Staff at Portland Public Health’s SPUR Clinic for New Mainers

This past October, AHEC Scholars were offered an incredible opportunity to work alongside Portland Public Health medical staff and help serve those in the Portland community.

For the New Mainers in Portland who may be uninsured or without a primary care physician, Portland Public Health (PPH) offers the Screening, Prioritization, Urgent, Referral (SPUR) clinic to provide free services and support to those in need. Members of the community can make an appointment to receive a screening exam administered by PPH nurses and collaborating medical providers, to assess for urgent concerns and help prioritize the level of follow up care needed. The SPUR staff are available to answer questions patients may have, administer vaccines, and even offer essential point of care testing, including random blood glucose levels and HIV screening if desired.

The overall goal of SPUR Clinic is to successfully connect patients with Maine’s primary health care system. All patients seen at SPUR clinic will have a follow up appointment scheduled with Greater Portland Health. Those that need additional care for any urgent medical issues, underlying health conditions, or new care needs such as a current pregnancy will be directly referred to specialty care through Greater Portland Health or other identified health system partners. The American healthcare system is challenging to navigate by nature, but the SPUR clinic is able to break down barriers so anyone that needs care is able to receive it.

This year, AHEC Scholarshave been fortunate enough to join PPH staff at the SPUR clinic as a part of their Community-Based Experiential Training or to meet any other AHEC requirements they may have. This partnership was initiated by AHEC’s Clinical Educator Kate Norgang. As a global health and emergency nurse, Kate is able to offer precepting and extra support to the PPH staff while AHEC Scholars get the experience of working in a triage screening clinic first-hand. The Scholars provide administrative assistance, as well as clinical support, such as taking vitals and lab testing. They are able to participate in history taking and physical exams, gaining insight into how the social determinants of health directly impact health status.

A variety of health professions are represented through our AHEC Scholar volunteers, including students from UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Physician Assistant Program, Tufts Maine Track Medical Education, and Community Health Workers. Kate and the PPH staff also support precepting for any UNE Nursing students who would like to take part in the SPUR clinic experience. While these students may not be part of the Scholars program, AHEC collaborates with the PPH staff to ensure that the interdisciplinary team working each clinic day is integrated and that all the students have a meaningful experience. In the January-March cohort, 18 AHEC Scholars have signed up to be a part of the SPUR clinic, and more are expected to join in the April-June cohort. AHEC is thrilled to have this partnership with Portland Public Health, and we can’t wait to continue working alongside them to provide care for the people of Portland.