History of the DeSales Free Clinic
The DeSales Free Clinic was opened by the DeSales Physician Assistant Program in January 2007. Founded by then-student Brett Feldman, it is a student-run, student-funded clinic located inside the Allentown Rescue Mission in the heart of center city Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The clinic is open two evenings per week and provides completely free primary and acute care, laboratory services and medications to the men seeking shelter or enrolled in a recovery program at the Allentown Rescue Mission. Participation in the clinic is a curricular requirement for all first and second year physician assistant graduate students as an integral part of their education. Here, students learn how to effectively communicate and care for patients who have limited resources.
In addition to providing a great service to the community, the students learn to deliver culturally competent, cost-effective care while learning to use community resources to help their patients.
An Opportunity for Collaboration
The care received by the patients of the DeSales Free Clinic is provided directly by the DeSales Physician Assistant students. First and second year students work together as a team with the patient to gather the appropriate history and perform the physical exam.
This team setting allows first year students the opportunity to apply what is being taught in the classroom to real-world scenarios. The second year student has the opportunity to teach their peers and begin to learn the art of mentoring. Patients are discussed with preceptors or PA program faculty to develop an appropriate plan of care.
The DeSales University Nursing Program also incorporates student learning experiences at the Mission by providing screening procedures and therapeutic communication with the residents early in the morning. All patients with abnormal findings are referred to the DeSales Free Clinic on the same day, thus closing the loop of patient care referral.
This collaboration between professions has fostered a meaningful appreciation of continuity of care and has led to the treatment of multiple, previously unidentified, patients in need of care.