For military mom Michelle Campbell, health clinics embedded in local schools are a time-saver.
The clinics, which serve military families in seven Pierce County schools, offer convenient basic health care for military dependents in a kid-friendly setting.
Instead of taking time away from work or other duties to pick up kids at school, drive them to a doctor’s office and drive them back to school, parents of military dependents at the seven schools can take advantage of the weekly or biweekly clinics, operated by physicians and nurses from Madigan Army Medical Center.
“It’s easy to schedule appointments,” said Campbell, who single-handedly manages family life at Joint Base Lewis McChord for her three sons while her husband Jack is away training at Fort Irwin in California.
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Two of her sons, 10th-grader Elijah and ninth-grader Isaiah, are students at Lakes High School in Lakewood. Her youngest, David, is a seventh-grader at Woodbrook Middle School, also in Lakewood. All three schools offer the Madigan clinics one day a week.
Medical staff often see the children alone and check in with parents by phone.
“Usually when we make an appointment, before they send the boys back to the classroom, I talk to the doctor about whatever was discussed,” Campbell said.
They are very proactive.
Military mom Michelle Campbell, on clinic physicians
If one of her sons needs a prescription, she can tell the doctor which pharmacy she uses. And if one of the boys needs a follow-up appointment with a Madigan specialist, the school clinic can do the scheduling.
Doctors keep a close eye on her family’s medical records, letting her know when it’s time for her kids to have physicals or flu shots.
“They are very proactive,” Campbell said.
The concept of school-based medical clinics has been around since the 1960s, said Madigan’s Dr. Keith Lemmon. Locally, the first Madigan clinics opened in 2012 at Steilacoom High School and Pioneer Middle School, both in the Steilacoom School District. The clinic at Lakes, in the Clover Park School District, opened in 2013 and the clinic at Woodbrook, in the same district, opened in 2014.
New funding this year brought three more schools into the fold: Mann Middle School and Harrison Preparatory School, both part of the Clover Park district, and Rogers High School in Puyallup.
Together, the clinics serve a military dependent population of between 1,800 and 2,000 students, Lemmon said.
Madigan already had two satellite clinics for military families, one in Puyallup and another in Olympia. But Lemmon said the school clinics are an effort to reach out to where kids spend much of their time.
The time-saving aspect is one of the biggest selling points.
The classroom becomes the waiting room.
Dr. Keith Lemmon, lieutenant colonel at Madigan Army Medical Center
While it might take three to four hours for parents to transport kids to and from Madigan or one of the satellite clinics, check in, receive services and check out, it takes only 15 to 25 minutes for students to see a doctor at school and then head back to class.
“The classroom becomes the waiting room,” said Lemmon, who picked up the phrase from one of the principals at a clinic school.
Kids also value the efficiency.
Isaiah Campbell, who is enrolled in several Advanced Placement classes, said taking too much time out of school for medical reasons can require makeup work.
“It’s convenient to have it right here at school, where you already are most of the week,” said his brother Elijah, who is also enrolled in advanced classes.
The school clinics offer a variety of primary care services: school and sports physical exams, nutrition and weight counseling, immunizations, diagnosis and treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, and monitoring conditions like asthma or acne.
They can provide access to birth control if requested. Minors in Washington state may obtain or refuse birth control services at any age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
“It’s infrequently that we are asked to provide those services,” Lemmon said. “But kids have the option to confidential services based on state law, the same as if they came to Madigan.”
While parents are always invited to participate in their students’ appointments, it’s not required. One of the goals of the school clinics is to create what Lemmon calls “a sense of health care autonomy.”
That means that adolescents can begin learning how to be responsible for their own health care needs by seeing a health care provider on their own, in a familiar school setting.
“One of the most important things we do are routine psycho-social screenings,” Lemmon said. “Once a year, we ask students how they are doing behaviorally, emotionally and in school.”
Those factors can be important in the lives of all teens, but they can be magnified for military kids, whose parents are often away from home for training or deployment.
Six of the seven Madigan clinic schools also have counselors who are part of the military family life program sponsored by the Department of Defense. Clinic doctors can refer kids to those counselors, if needed.
For now, the Madigan clinics are limited to seven local schools, chosen for their concentration of military dependents. It’s not known whether more will open in the future.
Meanwhile, Lemmon muses about the possibility of a civilian medical system providing the same kind of school-based health care for nonmilitary kids.
“That would be dream, to find a community partner,” he said.
School clinic statistics
These numbers are from the 2013-14 school year
Number of patient encounters: 767
Number of eligible students: 563
Estimated hours saved by parents: 1,900
Reduction in “no-show” appointments: 10 percent
Source: Madigan Army Medical Center