PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - New technology is helping a nurse practitioner in Pender County treat patients miles away.
Students and staff members who go to the school-based health center at West Pender Middle School are now able to have a nurse practitioner treat them and prescribe them medicine via video conference.
"Access to care is of great concern for Pender County's residents, there are limited health care providers available," said Carolyn Moser, the Director for Health and Human Services for Pender County. "This is just one more way to improve that access."
She said there is currently only one nurse practitioner for the two school-based health centers in Pender County. With this technology, the nurse practitioner can treat patients at the center at Pender High School in person and minutes later treat patients at the West Pender Middle School center via video.
"With this increased access, it does allow us to see children that are sick at school and this certainly prevents parents from having to leave their jobs, maybe not get paid for a day, whereas we can see them, treat them, send them home if need be and prescribe," Moser explained.
Students visiting the West Pender Middle School location are greeted by a nurse who performs their exam. Video cameras then allow the nurse practitioner to then see a live feed of the patient and what the nurse on site is examining. Cameras can provide an up close and clear look at the patient's ears, eyes, throat or any rashes.
"It's even clearer because it can magnify, they can take still photographs and compare pre and post treatment. The picture being able to be blown up really makes it clearer for the doctor," said Andrew Voll, RN.
"It is an extremely clear picture that the nurse practitioner is practically standing in the room as to what she is able to see," Moser said. "And, also, to have the still photos whether or not it's to compare visits or even to send a referral."
Using headphones, the new technology also enables the nurse practitioner to hear the patient's breathing remotely through a stethoscope.
Moser said they are also in the process of setting up the equipment at the Health Department, that way if the nurse practitioner at the school-based health centers is unavailable or busy, providers at the Pender County Health Department could help.
"The children now have access to health care like they've never seen before, you know in a rural part of the Pender County, where getting to a provider can be difficult, they at school are able to see a nurse practitioner while they are at school," Voll said. "That's the most convenient thing for them and their family, they don't possibly have to leave work and drive from Wilmington, or some distance, to get their child to a health care provider, we can do that here at school for them."