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Boise State’s nurses provide critical services for campus community from tents and parking lots

The Health Services clinic is operating an outside service tent at the Norco Building, photo Patrick Sweeney

Frontline workers all over the world have been forced to adjust how they deliver services and provide care. As Boise State transitioned to remote learning last spring and into the summer, the university’s Health Services clinic had to quickly adapt to the new environment. The clinic’s staff – which includes nurses, providers, mental health clinicians and counselors, billers, receptionists and information technology specialists – worked together to create innovative solutions that would allow them to continue to serve those who remained on or near campus.

“Although some days are more stressful than others, we have adapted very well to these ever-changing times,” said Tracy Tew, a licensed practical nurse at Health Services. “We are here to help and we are here to listen no matter what’s happening.”

Tew and the rest of the nursing staff have been onsite consistently throughout the pandemic, and the conditions haven’t been easy. During this time, the clinic has operated both inside and outside of the Norco Building to adequately meet patient needs. Some nurses have been working in an outdoor service tent where urgent care access and COVID testing are being managed, and they are dressed in layers of personal protective equipment despite the grueling summer heat. The staff works with Boise State’s public health officer, housing staff, student affairs staff and many others to assure student health and privacy is protected.

“I’m really proud of the work all our clinicians and staff have done to stay abreast, stay relevant and stay safe in a constantly changing environment,” said Julia Beard, executive director of Health Services. “The clinic could not operate without them, and they all function at an incredibly high skill level.”

Health Services clinic is operating an outside service tent at the Norco Building, photo Patrick Sweeney

The clinic relies on its nurses to be a consistent access point for all patients who need medical services such as office visits, medication refills, phone calls and assisting provider groups. Health Services has roughly 20,000 patient visits per year across all areas. On a given day during the fall or spring semesters, 80 to 150 patients utilize the clinic. While most of the clinic’s services are still available in-person, most are also available via telehealth visits. Counseling and psychiatry, in particular, have been very successful under the telehealth model. The office’s call volume has skyrocketed since the university shut down in the spring.

“Helping people is the reason we all went into the profession of health care, and we are used to change,” said licensed practical nurse Julee Huseby. “But I think everyone in every profession feels a lot of the same stressors.”

Nurses like Tew and Huseby serve the campus community behind the scenes and in the heat, without seeking notoriety. Their passion to take care of as many people as possible drives them every day. For Katie Nesi, another licensed practical nurse who previously was a geriatric nurse in Nebraska, being part of Health Services is about loving people.

“I decided to become a nurse simply for the human factor,” Nesi said. “To help another human being is worth every bump in the road, including COVID-19! It is my patients that pull me through each day, keep my head out of the negative, the insanity and uncertainty.”

As students return to campus, Tew and others aren’t going anywhere.

“The tent is here to stay and our staff is always here to help,” she said.

Health Services is located on the second floor in the Norco Building. It is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Visit the Health Services website for more information.