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Nursing students at Colorado Mountain College, before they even graduate, are caring for others at volunteer health care clinics and other community health events.

Last summer, for example, faculty and 20 students volunteered with Remote Area Medical, a national nonprofit provider of free medical clinics. These students, who are registered nurses, are currently seeking Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees at CMC Breckenridge or CMC Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs. The CMC volunteers worked with other RAM health care professionals to provide free medical, dental and vision care to people living in and around Paonia, Colorado.

According to Margaret Gilmon, Ph.D., professor of nursing at CMC Breckenridge, RAM’s mission is to prevent pain and alleviate suffering by providing these free, quality, health care events to those in need. The clinics are often in rural areas where access to health care is difficult to obtain.

Gilmon said Paonia’s clinic was the first RAM event held in Colorado. During the two-day clinic, she said, over 300 patients were served and received an estimated value of more than $131,000 in medical care.

Providing access

Nursing student Kathy Benziger said the RAM clinic showed what can be done when medical professionals go directly to those who need care.

“Participating in Remote Area Medical was enlightening as well as inspiring,” she said. “As a society, we are constantly bickering, complaining and fearful of soaring health care costs. Here is a small army of people who entered a community without much fanfare or impact on resources and left a few days later, affecting them tremendously by providing free care.”

Fox News even aired a story about the Paonia clinic that illustrated the importance of not only providing health care to people living in so-called “health care deserts,” but providing educational opportunities to students in rural areas.

“This clinical experience was part of our Community and Public Health Course, which educates nurses earning their bachelor’s degrees about improving public health and access to care in local communities,” said Betty Damask-Bembenek, Ed.D., the associate dean of nursing at Colorado Mountain College.

Providing access in Garfield, Summit counties

Recently CMC’s student nurses participated in another volunteer health care effort when the Colorado Mission of Mercy held its 2019 Western Slope COMOM dental clinic, offering free oral care to over 1,000 patients in Glenwood Springs.

“At clinics like these, our professional nursing students are able to serve their communities while learning,” said Damask-Bembenek.

In another recent development, to support the Summit County community’s health goals, CMC nursing faculty Jill Boyle is working with the county’s public health department and other community partners to bring the 9Health Fair to the local Hispanic community. First- and second-year students from CMC will participate in the fair.