Tomma Battle had taken her daughter to several specialists for her chronic health issues. The visits resulted in expensive testing and no results, until a visit to the Vine School Health Center, run by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Nursing, set her on the right path. “My concerns as a parent were heard,” said Battle.
The center is just one example of the profound impact the university is making in local communities to positively impact people’s lives.
Within a couple of months, the center’s specialists resolved the Battle family’s problems—just as they’ve done for thousands of families over the last 25 years.
Established in 1995, the Vine School Health Center was opened to provide access care in an area where there is none. The center, a community partnership between the College of Nursing and Knox County Schools, treats children from birth to age 21.
In 2011 Nan Gaylord, the college’s associate dean of practice and global affairs, wrote a grant to expand Vine’s care to provide mental health evaluations, counseling, and play therapy services for children and their families. The grant also provided assistance with food, housing, clothing, and health insurance applications.
“We know that health is not just being physically well. There are so many other social determinants,” said Gaylord. “We address all of that.”
Vine’s mental health services help families and school personnel understand appropriate behavior interventions so students can stay in school. The center’s holistic approach has profoundly impacted children’s physical and mental health as well as their academic standing.
“Because we provide care at the school, children miss less classroom seat time,” said Gaylord. “A visit through us takes only a few minutes—then the child is sent back to the classroom, or home if they’re too ill to stay.”
The new approach is training future nurses and nurse practitioners to look at the whole picture.
“I know the compassion I’ve observed at Vine will translate over into my career as a pediatric nurse,” said Grace Cambron, a 2021 graduate who volunteered at Vine for three years. “I’ve seen nurses and nurse practitioners alike take their patients and families snacks and water, and other needed items like shampoo or hand sanitizer. This impacts children and their families—knowing that they are taken care of in all aspects of their health.”
The center offers telehealth services to other Knox County Title I schools, allowing school nurses to work in tandem with its nurse practitioner to offer pediatric care.
Vine’s telehealth capacity enabled the center to continue care when the pandemic struck in 2020. While in-person visits declined from the recent average of 8,000 a year, vital virtual mental health services grew.
“The isolation really impacted children that had other behavioral and mental health concerns,” said Gaylord. “Parents told us, and we saw, that we were really needed.”
Vine nurses also provide care in Scott County, Tennessee, where there are no pediatric providers. Plans are in place to expand care to adults in low-income housing for elderly people.
“If it weren’t for Vine, we wouldn’t have gotten help,” said Battle. “I’m so grateful for the loving, patient, warm atmosphere. They truly care.”
Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kara Cardwell (865-974-9498, email@example.com)