The new Vera Whole Health clinic on campus will be receiving a nurse practitioner in November after being unable to provide medical care for the first months of the school year.
The clinic, located in CPM 117, will be adding Mills alumna Rebecca Faith to their team as nurse practitioner. It is currently staffed by health coach Cindy Van Lare, patient service representative Eryn Vigil and licensed vocational nurse Marie Martinez. Although Martinez is a licensed nurse, she is unable to give medical care to those on campus until there is nurse practitioner in the clinic.
“It’s been a pain in the butt to turn everyone away,” Martinez said. “Anything medical I can’t do, and it’s just because I need an actual provider to oversee any type of care I’m doing — someone that has a higher degree, like an MD [medical doctor] or an NP [nurse practitioner] or even a PA [physician assistant]. Nurses and doctors, we cannot work without each other.”
She likened the relationship between that of a nurse practitioner and herself to that of a investigator and the evidence-gathering assistant.
“We’ll get all the information, get all the clues and then we’ll bring that to the head-honcho detective, and they’re the ones who are like ‘this is who it was’ or ‘this is where it happened,’” Martinez said.
Mills student Helena Smith (who uses they/them pronouns) voiced some of the frustrations students have felt about the lack of medical care on campus.
“I heard that because we didn’t have a nurse practitioner yet, there wasn’t much point in going because they couldn’t provide much in the way of medical treatment, which is kind of the main reason for having a clinic,” Smith said.
Smith was put in a stressful situation because of the lack of a nurse practitioner.
“During about the second week of school, I got a pretty intense flu and it’s policy for some of the professors on campus to require a signed doctor’s note to prove you were actually ill and not just skipping class,” Smith said.
When contacting their professors, they had to explain that they understood the class policy yet were unable to provide the required doctor’s note because of the lack of nurse practitioner or doctor on campus, as well as their inability to get one off campus while very sick and without owning a car.
“I feel very lucky that my professors were understanding and were all very flexible about it and understood the situation,” Smith said.
Smith also brought up a broader concern they had with the effects of systemic issues in healthcare today.
“The medical industry can have kind of a weird relationship with people like me, who are queer or do come from families with hereditary disabilities,” Smith said.
It is a sensitivity to these sorts of issues that Vera staff reported was the main reason that it has taken so long to obtain a nurse practitioner.
“It takes a long time to find the right one,” Van Lare said. “They wanted someone who would fit the Mills community and has worked with student health. They found, finally, a really good one, so we’re very excited to have her.”
Martinez reaffirmed this and added that the new nurse practitioner is a Mills alumna.
“We just didn’t want to have the wrong person in here, who would say something…on the insensitive side,” Martinez said.
Ryan Schmid, CEO and co-founder of Vera Whole Health, similarly said that the reason there has been a delay in medical care available at the clinic is because they needed to find a nurse practitioner who would meet the needs of Mills students. He said that the issue was “something we [at Vera] take very seriously.”
Vera was founded in 2007, and Mills is the first college it has served. According to Schmid, the company provides a “healthcare revolution” that goes beyond treating physical conditions to deal with mental and social aspects of health as well. He said that, in comparison to other healthcare providers, Vera fosters an environment that provides more time and resources for patients.
When an official start date for the nurse practitioner is confirmed, it will be announced to the campus. She will be available during all the clinic’s hours, which are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an hour lunch break from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
All three of the current staff members at the Vera clinic expressed an excitement for the future nurse practitioner and for working on the Mills campus in general.
“[The clinic] will hopefully be really useful to students when it’s up and running fully with a nurse practitioner,” Van Lane said. “It’s free, convenient and easy.”