SFA nursing students training to create greater access to care

By Holley Nees - email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) – It's a critical problem, more people needing health care but very few doctors to treat them. However, while rural East Texas may be facing a shortage of doctors and specialists, the number of students enrolled in Stephen F. Austin's School of Nursing has nearly doubled.  The students are determined to finish school to start giving patients greater access to care.

Courtney Dancer and Melissa Lockwood are SFA nursing students.  Their instructors said they're training to join a growing number of nurses that are creating greater access to care in under-served communities.

"A good percentage of these students will go on and become nurse practitioners to help fill in the gap to work with physicians more closely and see patients on their own," said Instructor and Nurse Practitioner Della Connor.

Instructors said they're thankful they can train students in the school's state-of-the-art labs to help fill in the gap where there's a shortage of doctors.

"I don't know how many patients I have from Center come over to Nacogdoches for primary care for pediatrics because there's such a shortage of people taking PEDs in the medically under-served population," said Instructor and Nurse Practitioner Susan McDonald.

However, when nurses can write prescriptions, order tests, and diagnose patients, it means more people can be seen even when there is fewer doctors.

"When I worked in a big practice in Beaumont, the nurse practitioners were seeing 40 kids a day in PEDs in addition to what our doctors were seeing in the practice," said McDonald.

Although doctors may be in short supply, the SFA Nursing School has more applicants than they do slots.

"When I first started teaching here back in the fall of '05, we were admitting 40 a semester," explained McDonald.  "This semester, in my second semester class I have 73 students."

The students said they are thrilled they're training to make health care available to more people.

"It makes me feel like I'm getting something a little more out of it than just working being a nurse," said nursing student Courtney Dancer.  "I feel like I'm actually doing my part in society."

"With nursing, it's so dynamic, there's no ceiling," explained nursing student Melissa Lockwood.

The students are proof that a doctor shortage, doesn't have to mean people go without care.

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