Gaye Douglas, Family Nurse Practitioner

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Gaye Douglas, MEd, MSN, APRN-BC
Campus Health Center
Johnsonville, SC

As a school nurse in a rural South Carolina district, Gaye Douglas, MEd, MSN, APRN-BC, noticed that many students she treated also would show up for primary care at the hospital emergency room 22 miles away, where she worked weekends. So in 2006, a year after becoming certified as a family nurse practitioner, Gaye took “a huge leap of faith” by securing a $496,000 Duke Endowment grant to operate a health clinic on the campus of Johnsonville’s three adjacent schools serving K-12.

“It was a mission,” says Gaye of Campus Health Center, built by the school district and run by Gaye, who oversees a staff nurse and a billing administrator. “I knew as a nurse practitioner I could choose an area I was passionate about and build a program to impact the community. I’m interested in school and adolescent health. I was able to pursue that and make my own job.”

Campus Health Center, which is now self-sustaining financially, serves not only the 1,600 students, but also the district’s teachers and community residents, including adults. The clinic teaches preventive care and provides acute care, treating such conditions as ear infections and viral illnesses. It administers the state’s vaccine program for students. Gaye helps adult patients manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. She is authorized to prescribe medications.

With health care providers scarce in the area, many of Gaye’s patients would miss school or work to go to the hospital emergency room, travel long distances for a doctor visit, or wait days for an appointment at one of the few local providers’ offices. Gaye’s clinic usually can accommodate same-day appointments, and designates a walk-in time every morning.

With her school district better equipped to provide timely health care, Gaye is now planning her next mission – a mobile health service, financed by a $500,000 federal grant.  The health clinic on wheels, scheduled to launch in January 2012 and to be staffed by a nurse practitioner, will travel to three other rural schools in towns with health care provider shortages.