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St. Luke’s Children’s Mobile Care a success in first school year on the road

Practice manager Abby Goade, RN Johanna Blaine and Dr. Amy Barton outside the St. Luke's Children's Mobile Care unit at Frank Church High School in Boise.
By Dave Southorn, News and Community
May 31, 2022

St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Amy Barton believes the Treasure Valley has a strong health care presence, but also acknowledges despite that, there are pockets of people who don’t have access like most.

Specifically, she says there are kids in need of physical and mental care who often have challenges getting to a doctor, have perhaps suffered abuse or the parents or guardians are unable to travel.

With that in mind, St. Luke’s Children’s Mobile Care launched at the start of the 2021-22 school year to bring care directly to kids — with parental consent, of course.

The retrofitted RV can treat minor illnesses and injuries, while also providing mental health counselors and allows easier connections to specialists, if necessary. It visited schools around Ada and Canyon counties this school year.

“I think for us in Boise it has been way more successful and exceeded any expectations I had,” said Barton, who staffed the mobile unit primarily at Koelsch Elementary and Frank Church High School. “The school staff and the district have been phenomenal with addressing the health needs of these kids, too.”

St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Noreen Womack added: “It has been our absolute privilege to work alongside the school nurses, counselors, teachers, principals and administrative staff, and watch them perform staggering feats of ordinary magic for their students every day.”

Dr. Amy Barton and RN Johanna Blaine consult on a patient's visit.

St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Noreen Womack added: “It has been our absolute privilege to work alongside the school nurses, counselors, teachers, principals and administrative staff, and watch them perform staggering feats of ordinary magic for their students every day.”

The schools facilitate communication with parents, letting them know the Mobile Care unit was coming, also allowing parents to be on the phone during a student’s visit.

“We see this collaboration with the schools as a logical extension of pediatric resources and a commitment to community health,” said Womack, who added they are expecting the unit to roll for “years to come.”

Barton said that even despite the new and unique avenue in which to offer care — Womack said one kindergartner called it “the doctor truck” — the amount of kids that were seen was about double what she expected.

“This group has a lot of mental health concerns that may be the result of current or past trauma,” Barton said. “Some had needs unaddressed for a long time. One student we’ve seen regularly, who had been through repeated abuse in her life, recently told me, ‘I have never slept better in my life.’”

Though the visits have proven immediately beneficial for acute physical needs, there also is an optimism that the Children’s Mobile Care will pay dividends down the road.

Barton noted there is an ability to build rapport with kids since there are fewer appointments than a typical clinic, providing more time to get to know the patient. This allows the young patients to be open when talking about how they’re feeling, physically or mentally.

“Addressing the physical and psychological health of these kids is an investment in our community,” Barton said. “It helps them become healthier adults.”


About The Author

Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.