The Flathead Valley Community College has become the first such institution to open a student health clinic in Montana. The new facility opened on Monday, Aug. 26, inside the Rebecca Chaney Broussard Center for Nursing and Health Science on its Kalispell campus.
The student health clinic is currently open three days a week and staffed by the Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
“We provide all primary care, just like any other doctor’s office in town,” said Chuck Jensen, vice president of administration and finance, during a tour of the new clinic.
FVCC students taking seven or more credits pay a mandatory $45 fee per semester for use of the student clinic. Students below the seven-credit threshold can opt in for the fee. The clinic has three examination rooms and a lab and can address basic medical needs, including everything from stitches to pregnancy tests.
While student health clinics are common at larger schools, including the University of Montana and Montana State University, FVCC is the first community college in the state to open one. Jensen said the school has considered opening a clinic for the last few years and with the construction of a new nursing school, which opened last spring, the timing was right. He said many of FVCC’s students do not have health insurance.
“As everyone knows, a sick student is a student who does not show up to class,” Jensen said.
The new nursing school was built with $5.5 million in private donations. The student fee and an anonymous donation of $50,000 annually for the next five years will cover the cost of running the health clinic.
Since the clinic opened in August, it has already seen a handful of students.
“We’ve had everything from bruised lips to respiratory issues, we’ve seen all sorts of stuff,” said physician assistant Shelley Naomi. “Anything that is outside of our realm will be sent to the hospital. We can’t do everything, but it’s a good start.”
The small staff at the clinic is provided to FVCC from KRMC on an annual contract. Among them is medical assistant Kathy Weller, who said working at the school clinic is a nice change of pace.
“I feel like it’s a way to give back. At a practice, you’re always worried about bills and insurance issues, but those problems don’t happen here,” she said. “Every student we’ve seen so far does not have insurance, so I feel like we’re filling a need.”
Jensen said he hopes more students begin using the medical services offered on campus. The new student health clinic is open on Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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