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Nursing News HighlightsAdvancing Culturally Competent Care

One Nurse’s Mission to Make Primary Care More Accessible in Philadelphia

As the healthcare system in the United States continues to evolve, nurses are continuing to play a larger role in providing comprehensive healthcare to patients in vulnerable areas. Not only are organizations like Family Practice and Counseling Network (FPCN) working to make care available to those in low-income and underserved communities, they’re also working to ensure that care takes into consideration a patient’s complete wellness and gives them access to knowledgeable experts so they can thrive.

As the nation’s largest nurse-led clinic network for low-income communities, FPCN is a network of federally qualified community health centers that deliver primary care and other specialized services, like cardiology and nutrition, designed to treat the whole patient.

The integrated model is especially impactful for patients who access healthcare resources infrequently, and need to receive comprehensive healthcare in a manner that is quick, efficient, cost-effective, and close to home.

Donna L. Torrisi, MSN, FAAN, FPCN’s network executive director, leads the organization’s mission of providing the highest-quality care to those who may otherwise encounter challenges accessing primary care. After becoming a nurse practitioner in 1976, Donna realized the importance of establishing a healthcare model in which nurses are empowered to provide quality care in areas where healthcare can be scarce. In 1992, Donna opened her first center where patients could easily reach her to receive care — three renovated and combined apartments in a low-income community in Philadelphia.

Today, FPCN treats 24,000 patients each year across the Philadelphia area. The available services have expanded — in addition to primary care, patients also have access to behavioral health, dental, cardiology, nutrition, mind and body, physical therapy, and social services within each of the five health centers.

Donna continues to see patients for one half-day each week, in addition to her responsibilities as network executive director, to remain as close to patient and nurse needs as possible.

“Continuing to see patients helps me stay connected to the work nurses do and keeps me grounded in the day-to-day work,” Donna said. “That way, I can understand the types of problems patients are having and begin to understand how to address them. Of course, seeing patients also adds gratification to what I do. This is what I love.”

Donna shared that it’s a deep passion and a willingness to push boundaries for the sake of the patient that allows nurses to provide the best care possible. Nurses often spend more time with patients than other healthcare providers, giving nurses the opportunity to identify and understand the source of health concerns and conditions — due to lifestyle, occupation, or other factors — and provide personalized care to address the issue.

“Though it seems simple, treat others how you would like to be treated, or the way you would like your children to be treated,” Donna shared, noting courage, resourcefulness, and creativity as key characteristics of nurses with a desire to assist low-income patients.

For more information about FPCN, visit their website here.

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