CRESTVIEW — If Northwood Arts and Science Academy Title 1 teacher Tracey McGann needed to run to the doctor, it once meant a student would lose reading time with her.
Now, the doctor’s office comes to McGann’s school.
The Mobile Health Clinic — a service of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Twin Cities Hospital and Niceville Family Practice, unveiled Wednesday at Northwood — offers basic medical services, including minor illness and injury exams and vaccinations.
The van — actually the size of an RV — travels to each Okaloosa County school on a rotating schedule. Educators who need to see a nurse practitioner or medical technician can visit it at a nearby school if it’s not at theirs when they need it.
The mobile clinic is a first for the area and participating hospitals, along with its parent company, Hospital Corporation of America, according to Dave Whalen, Twin Cities Hospital’s chief operating officer.
The concept is simple — “Think of it as a mobile urgent care service,” HCA North Florida director of business health Rod Whiting said.
And it solves a longstanding problem: dedicated, sick teachers weren’t always visiting a doctor's office, educators said.
A poll of Okaloosa County teachers found almost 50 percent didn’t have, or couldn't identify, a primary care physician, according to Mitch Mongell, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center CEO.
That raises concerns because "the teachers are the ones affecting our future by teaching our students,” Mobile Health Clinic nurse practitioner Kimberley Smith said.
In addition, Okaloosa Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said, "Healthy employees are a good thing to have. When you invest in someone — to the practical, H.R. side of me — you want to keep them healthy and you want to keep them around.”
McGann appreciates the convenience.
“Its biggest benefit is that we don’t have to take time away from our children to make a doctor’s appointment,” she said.
“For us, it’s great because it’s right here. Our children need extra reading time and we don’t want to take that away from them for doctor’s visits.”