The Remote Area Medical (RAM) Free Clinic recently came to Youngstown, Ohio’s Covelli Center to provide free access to vision, dental, and healthcare. Volunteers from the community and medical field participated in this amazing event which helped 722 people of the Youngstown and surrounding communities by providing $297,653 in medical services. Ayla Mroczkowski, Sydney McGrath, Wendy Vargo, and Taylor Oliver, four junior nursing students from the Kent State Salem campus, were among the volunteers. For six hours, they assisted with retrieving health histories and taking vital signs. While everyone was welcome to attend, the target population was primarily disadvantaged individuals. However, we soon discovered that was not the primary patient we would help. Many of individuals we saw had good jobs and some insurance, but they were lacking dental and vision care.
Why was it important for you to participate?
Sydney: I have always had a passion for providing care to those who have slipped through the cracks of our healthcare system. There are so many people without healthcare or don’t have adequate coverage to see the doctors they need. Dental and vision insurance are even less common, and many of the people we met cannot afford to pay out of pocket costs.
Ayla: I have always wanted to be a part of a clinic that helps underserved people, and this was my chance. I wanted to help make a difference in people’s lives and provide the care they might not otherwise have received.
Taylor: This event reminded me of why I wanted to become a nurse. The patient population we met was not just people experiencing poverty. These were people who had jobs, but their insurance did not cover dental or vision. It was eye-opening to see a wide variety of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
Share an observation that particularly stuck out to you and why it made an impact.
S: One woman told me how wonderful it was to get a checkup for free. When asked about her medications she said, “I’m not on any anymore. I can’t afford them.” We spoke briefly about which medication she took previously and I learned they were for COPD. Since losing her health coverage, she could no longer afford to keep paying for the medications that help her breathe. It was heartbreaking.
T: The most moving part of this whole experience was seeing the impact I had on these patients just by listening to them. It reminded me of why I started pursuing nursing in the first place. I constantly strive to show care, be an open ear, and provide comfort when people are feeling most vulnerable.
What did this experience teach you?
A: There were a lot of people who I was surprised didn’t have insurance or were not able to afford health care. It definitely made me realize that just because it doesn’t look like it, people may still be struggling to make ends meet and take care of their healthcare needs.
T: This experience taught me that as a future registered nurse and healthcare professional, I need to advocate for every single patient, and be an active member of the community so I can help people of all populations.
What take-aways from this experience were most beneficial to you as nursing students?
T: This event showed me that it is not just one specific population or group of people who struggle with healthcare costs. People who have jobs or stable homelife may also find the costs of medical attention too burdensome. This is a huge issue when it comes to health and overall well-being. If people let their health concerns go for too long, by the time they seek medical attention, those issues may already be chronic, which makes for longer treatments that are often more expensive and aggressive. This event was a great way to call attention to this dilemma.
S: There were so many little kids whose families couldn’t afford healthcare, and they didn’t know how to teach their children about preventable diseases. As Taylor pointed out, the lack of prevention can result in longer, less cost-effective treatments.
A: I think it was beneficial to meet people outside of a healthcare facility, where we could have a relaxed conversation about their health without the added stress of needing major treatments. Volunteering was extremely rewarding; I helped people gain access to healthcare they may never have received otherwise.
How will having attended this free clinic impact your future nursing career?
S: Going to events like this reminds me that nursing is not just a job, but a service to the community. While it will be nice to be paid for the care I provide, it’s also important to help those who can’t afford to be seen in the hospital.
A: I plan to continue volunteering throughout my career and hope to work with RAM again. I will also do my best to help patients find access and share information about events like this where they can receive free necessary check-ups.
T: The impact is not just on my career as a future nurse but on my heart as a person. I want to thank the RAM staff and everyone else who made this event possible. The impact RAM has made on the community, the volunteers, and most importantly, the patients, speaks volumes. I will continue to get involved in events like this and use my skills and compassion to impact people’s lives as I continue on with my nursing journey. After this experience, I, now more than ever, want to continue to participate and be an advocate for all patients who deserve access to healthcare in order to have long and healthy lives. I want to thank Kent State College of Nursing for encouraging us to be involved in our communities.