Church Health Clinic: Making it Work

  1. The Church Health Clinic of Memphis is a pioneering institution, leading the way for other clinics of its kind. The author visited the CHC and describes her visit and some of the important highlights.

    Church Health Clinic: Making it Work

    "I don't know what I've done in my life to deserve the level of kindness and caring I've received here. Saying thank you is not enough."
    "My health and well-being matter."
    "They're at the top of their game."
    "I can honestly say I look forward to my next dental appointment!"

    These quotes are from patients at the Church Health Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee. Started over 30 years ago, by Scott Morris, MD and Masters of Divinity, the clinic has gone from being a dream of treating the whole patient-mind, body and spirit-to a facility that occupies 150,000 sq. ft of the newly refurbished Sears Distribution Center. Previously abandoned for two decades this 1.5 million sq. ft complex rivals the Empire State Building in sheer size, and the clinic occupies part of what is now the gleaming center of urban revitalization in a long-depressed area of Memphis.

    The CHC opened with twelve patients on its first day but now has grown to serve over 70,000. Seen by over 1000 volunteer doctors those patients also have access to full-life help: everything from cooking and nutrition classes in the industrial kitchen, to Wellness Classes at the in-house YMCA, to chapel services, counseling, support groups, life coaching, dental care, vision care, and of course, complete primary care. Shane Stanford writes in his book, If Your Heart Is Like My Heart, "Faith was at the core of the Church Health Center-a gathering point, rather than a dividing point."

    Roaming around the airy spaces the clinic occupies, it is hard to escape the feeling of hope and even of joy that pervades the building. The depth and breadth of services seem a near impossibility in our day of fractured care, of insufficient funding, of short cuts, and of terrorizing levels of bureaucracy. How did this happen and can it happen again in other communities?

    The dream started when one man followed a God-inspired vision to provide high quality medical care for the poor and underserved. Dr. Scott Morris saw the reality that "The poor don't necessarily want free care, they want affordable care." After getting his theology degree, going to medical school and doing a Family Practice residency, Dr. Morris moved to Memphis expressly because the area was known as one of the poorest in the country. He spent time with Grainger Westberg, the founder of Parish Nursing/ Faith Community Nursing. While pastoring a church, he began to network and build bridges with all types of denominations and people in all walks of life. He inspired people who had funding to share and he inspired others who had expertise to offer.

    The first clinic opened in 1987 and the movement forward has not slowed over the years. While settling into their new location at Crosstown Concourse, the CHC has expanded to include an impressive array of whole-person services. In fact. Dr. Morris says that the medical offices are set up in a system of pods so that one physician can move fluidly between exam rooms so that if a patient needs to spend an hour with a counselor, they can do that during their clinic time without disrupting the flow of patients. "We want to address whole-person needs."

    Morris goes on: "More joy, more love and being closer to God. Longer life for the sake of life itself can't be what it's all about. Our care here at the clinic is never just about the doctor but about the interface between the patient, the doctors and others."

    CHC has done a remarkable job of bringing in students, residents, physicians, specialists and volunteers to help provide the needed care. Additionally, they have begun to explore ways they can help their population be economically successful. For example: while at Crosstown, I got a muffin baked in their on-site kitchen and sold at a kiosk nearby.
    joyandscott-jpg

    Morris dreams that the Church Health Clinic of Memphis is only the beginning of a much bigger movement toward health care for everyone. He sees the impact great care can have, seeks to measure it and replicate it. He proudly tells the story of the difference that restorative dentistry can make. "We don't just pull teeth. We fix whatever we can. And then we follow up a year later to see if people's lives have changed, asking specific questions about growth in income and other measurable factors." CHC seeks to capture and demonstrate change and then to help other places do the same.

    Empowering Community Health Outreach (ECHO) is a new arm of the CHC. Seeking to help other communities provide church based care, the experts with ECHO have knowledge to share. All along, the CHC has been helping other communities start clinics. In fact, at this point there are about 30 based on the same model. But just recently the CHC combined forces with ECHO to provide even more consultation, education and resources to those who are seeking to address health in their communities.

    How about your community? Do you have a vision for starting a health clinic? Do you work or volunteer at a clinic like the CHC? There are plenty of things wrong in our health system and in our country, but the CHC is a shining light, a place where kindness reigns and moves out in gentle ripples through Memphis and beyond.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 14
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    About jeastridge

    Joy is a Faith Community Nurse at her congregation. In her spare time she enjoys cooking for crowds and taking care of her grandchildren.

    Joined: Jan '15; Posts: 353; Likes: 1,217

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    6 Comments

  3. by   traumaRUs
    Great article - inspirational!
  4. by   catladyx8
    In 2016 I presented the concept of Faith Community Nursing in my church. It was approved and I took a course through Eastern Mennonite University on Faith Community Nursing. In Feb. 2017 I was appointed as the Faith Community Nurse for our church and hoped to be able to use my 32+ years of nursing experience and spiritual knowledge in providing care to the congregants. I will soon be completing my Associate of Arts Degree in Theology so I can further help meet the spiritual needs of my community. My problem is that there is little interest by the congregation. No one will attend educational seminars despite saying they are interested. Many of them want to take CPR classes and every time I try to schedule a class no one wants to commit to attending. In a year I have made very little progress other than to provide monthly brochures on various health topics and a few individual counseling sessions, home visits, and blood pressure screenings. I am so glad this physician has been able to make this clinic work and is providing a holistic approach to serve people in the community, mind, body, and spirit. I wish I was able to do even a small part of this.
  5. by   TakuRN
    So proud to see this!
  6. by   bncrowd1
    I want to learn more about this.
  7. by   jeastridge
    Quote from catladyx8
    In 2016 I presented the concept of Faith Community Nursing in my church. It was approved and I took a course through Eastern Mennonite University on Faith Community Nursing. In Feb. 2017 I was appointed as the Faith Community Nurse for our church and hoped to be able to use my 32+ years of nursing experience and spiritual knowledge in providing care to the congregants. I will soon be completing my Associate of Arts Degree in Theology so I can further help meet the spiritual needs of my community. My problem is that there is little interest by the congregation. No one will attend educational seminars despite saying they are interested. Many of them want to take CPR classes and every time I try to schedule a class no one wants to commit to attending. In a year I have made very little progress other than to provide monthly brochures on various health topics and a few individual counseling sessions, home visits, and blood pressure screenings. I am so glad this physician has been able to make this clinic work and is providing a holistic approach to serve people in the community, mind, body, and spirit. I wish I was able to do even a small part of this.
    Thank you for sharing. I have been an FCN for 20+ years and I hear and understand your comments. In fact, when our local group of FCNs gathers each month, we hear this same comment repeated often. What to do? Every congregation is different but as you get this ministry going (and it is early in the process...) it may be that the main focus is on building relationships--with the folks in your congregation, with the staff and with community resources. Eventually, I need will present itself clearly and you will be fully equipped to jump right in. It sounds like you have laid some pretty amazing foundation stones for a successful long term ministry. May God bless you! Joy
  8. by   jeastridge
    Quote from bncrowd1
    I want to learn more about this.

    You might start by exploring their website: Church Health | Medical Clinic, Nutrition Education, Wellness Services. It is a wonderful organization and one that is worthy of imitation! If you are anywhere near Memphis, make a point of visiting because there is no substitute for an in-person tour. Joy

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