Clinic needs volunteer nurses

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Western Tidewater Free Clinic nurse Mary Helmer takes vital signs from Robert Baker at the clinic on Tuesday. The clinic is desperate for more volunteer nurses.

Western Tidewater Free Clinic nurse Mary Helmer takes vital signs from Robert Baker at the clinic on Tuesday. The clinic is desperate for more volunteer nurses.

The Western Tidewater Free Clinic is in desperate need of nurse volunteers and is calling on all nurses who can give their time to learn more about volunteering.

“We’re desperate for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified medical assistants,” said Pam Witt, director of clinical services at the clinic. “Volunteers are the lifeblood of this clinic.”


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Nurses at the clinic can perform several duties. They take medical histories for new patients, work in the laboratory, educate patients about how to take care of their health — including going over medications and reviewing what the doctor said — and more.

“We do a lot of patient teaching,” Witt said. “We’re very vested in outcomes. We want them to be able to take care of their families better.”

One of the clinic’s most faithful nurse volunteers is Mary Helmer, who recently retired after a wide-ranging career in family practice, hospital, home hospice care and a school.

“I feel very privileged that all the years I worked, I got a taste of everything,” she said.

Helmer has been volunteering at the clinic for three years and now has even more time to devote to it.

“When I retired, I knew I wanted to volunteer in nursing,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do. I wanted to do something to give back to the community.”

Helmer said volunteering at the clinic is self-improving, too.

“It helps your psyche. The gratification of volunteering outweighs any paycheck. It gives you a better perspective of what’s going on in the world.”

Witt said volunteers can come as often as they are able, even if it’s only once per month, and are asked to give three to four hours per day. They receive training on a variety of aspects of working at the clinic, including a short training on the electronic medical records system.

Witt said nurse volunteers have dwindled over the years, partially because some did not want to deal with the new electronic medical records system.

Others, particularly those retired from actually working in nursing, stopped volunteering when new state requirements for continuing education for licensed nurses were implemented, adding to the cost and time required to keep a license for a volunteer job.

And most of those volunteering to fulfill requirements for an educational program only volunteer long enough to meet the requirement, and then they move on, Witt said.

“When you have such a small pool of volunteers, losing even one is critical,” she said.

It doesn’t sound like the clinic will have to worry about losing Helmer anytime soon.

“I’m going to keep doing this until I can’t,” she said. “This place is a needed place.”

The clinic, located on Meade Parkway off Pruden Boulevard, provides non-emergency health care to residents of Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County who are between 19 and 64, have no health insurance and make less than twice the federal poverty level.

Call the clinic at 923-1060 for more information.