- August 10, 2021
OCOEE – Patients who visit Shepherd’s Hope Health Center in Ocoee will be seeing many new faces soon now that the nonprofit organization has partnered with the University of Central Florida’s College of Nursing.
Shepherd’s Hope, which was founded in 1997, offers free medical care to uninsured people from its five health centers in Orange and Seminole counties.
Although the organization has partnered with UCF for four years, thanks to a $62,000 grant provided by the West Orange Healthcare District, both undergraduate and graduate nursing students will be able to apply their knowledge and receive real-world clinical experience – all while supporting Shepherd’s Hope mission to aid Central Florida’s economically disadvantaged population.
“The realism of health care today is that not everybody can get what they need when they need it, so having services such as Shepherd's Hope, helps to provide those services and gives those students a realistic ...(experience), because not everybody has the platinum health insurance plan,” said Mary Lou Sole, the UCF College of Nursing dean. “So our undergraduate students are doing health screenings, health assessments, health evaluations and setting up different educational programs so that the individuals out there seeking health care can gain more knowledge about managing ... common health problems that are seen. And then the graduate students get experience learning to manage (patients) as an advanced practice nurse.”
According to the U.S. Census, 18.6% percent of Ocoee’s population aged younger than 65 are living without health insurance. This is significantly higher than the national uninsured rate of 10%, and Florida’s uninsured rate of 15.3%, added UCF spokeswoman Rachel Williams.
But having provided care to 19,575 patients in 2017 alone, Shepherd’s Hope is helping to bridge that gap with the help of UCF’s nursing students.
“The opportunity for the students to come into contact with these patients whose essential health-care needs are typically under-met is a wonderful win-win opportunity for both of our organizations and the patient,” said Marni Stahlman, the CEO and President of Shepherd's Hope. “And a Shepherd's hope clinic is capable of treating a patient like any other outpatient doctor's office where you can be seen for acute illnesses, such as a respiratory or ear infection in a young child to more chronic or life-threatening diagnoses, (such as) cancer. Some procedures can be accomplished at our clinic, but obviously, we're limited like any other outpatient clinic with not having access to more robust diagnostic equipment or tools that would help treat those patients. So at that point, we would utilize our hospital partners at both Florida Hospital and Orlando Health.”
UCF’s nursing students, which have provided more than 30,000 hours of service to Central Florida residents during the past 20 years, will also help staff Shepherd’s Hope upcoming 10,000-square-foot health center in Winter Garden. The new center is scheduled to open December 2018 at 455 Ninth St.