Concordia supplies its Nursing Program with state-of-the-art van


Concordia University has hit the gas on a mobile medical mission van to provide community health services. 

Ranked fourth in Texas by, Concordia’s nursing program focuses on community health courses and inspiring students to give back to through mission work and service. Senior nursing students have gained out-of-hospital experience by practicing their skills and providing health education under bridges, in jails, at church health fairs, in crisis centers and community health agencies. Until the start of October, they loaded a car with supplies and a card table.

Professor Greta Degen, director of the Master of Science in Nursing program said that the new van service will be allow Concordia’s nursing program to be more efficient.

“Having the van will make such a difference in where we can go and what we can say ‘yes’ to,” said Degen. “In the past, we turned down so many opportunities to serve because program centers were too small. We sometimes stood outside, even in rain, trying to deliver care.” 

Concordia student nurses complement the services of many agencies and programs that are struggling to accomplish their own missions when health issues come up among the populations they serve and must be addressed first.

The medical mission van cost an estimated $45,000, and Degen said there are more supplies they are still hoping to add to it such as an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Degen also said they will be administering flu shots on board..

Former students Jolie Perez and Caitlin Rowlette, who graduated four years ago, said the van will bring a new perspective to both students and patients in the Austin area.

“Seeing the developments with the van is definitely inspiring because my love for public and community health started with Greta’s class here,” said Perez. “Seeing the work that’s going into this is really cool.”

“I work in a hospital setting now so I can see how the community van is important to meeting the needs of patients who don’t have the means to get seen in a physician’s office or clinic,” added Rowlette. “A lot of times, those types of individuals end up in the emergency room for something like management of a chronic disease. This is going to be a helpful contribution to our community.”

Degen said that there is a shortage of nurses in Austin and that’s why it’s important for Concordia nursing students to gain as much experience in areas where care is more difficult to access. 

“There just aren’t enough nurses on the front line in Austin,” Degen explained. “We see this exposure to community health nursing as essential to their career education. While most nursing graduates first work in hospitals to hone their skills, they still need to understand the challenges patients face in everyday living situations. And, statistics show that about three out of four new nurses today will move into community settings after five to ten years.”

Seniors Haylee Rowlette, Ann Marie Nguyen, Darrell Kalina and Amy Schneberger are part of the accelerated Bachelor’s Nursing Program, which allows students to complete their degree in 16 months.

“I think it’s really cool that the Nursing Program will get to use this van,” said Kalina. “It’s going to be great for future students for sure.”

“It’s a great opportunity for students to be hands-on and to get out into the community,” added Haylee Rowlette.

“Nursing is really self-fulfilling as you help other people,” said Nguyen. “It’s really rewarding.”

“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was little,” said Schenberger. “It’s so excited since this is finally happening.”

To provide students with guidance and direction, Concordia also hired Austin nurse practitioner Ellen Fontana to supervise student nurses at all van visits. The new van will be stocked with nursing supplies and educational materials and ready to serve. For several years, Concordia’s community nursing has benefitted many organizations by providing health education, mental health and safety assessments, medication review, support and encouragement. Such clients have included: Mission Possible’s Church Under the Bridge, Leander Church of Christ’s Bright Days Food Pantry, Lakeway Crisis Center, Travis County Correctional Center, Williamson County’s Wards of State Program, churches and fire departments.

“We have had no one here at Concordia tell us this van could not become a reality. That’s a real testimony to how this university lives its mission,” added Degen. “Requests have already been coming in from other nursing, dental, pharmacology, case management and psychology programs to work together with us.”