New clinic focuses on families

An offshoot of a Port Orchard facility opens on Hildebrand Lane.

Practice really can make perfect, at least when it comes to patient care.

That’s the philosophy behind Bainbridge Family Care Clinic, which opens March 1 to complement the island’s existing health care resources.

“We’re feeling like the time is right to offer an alternative to the Virginia Mason clinic,” said Margaret Sandler, one of three nurse practitioners involved in the venture. Sandler and Paul Baker specialize in family practice medicine, while Audrey Van Voorhis focuses on women’s health care.

An offshoot of the highly successful South Kitsap Family Care facility in Port Orchard, the new clinic will be located at 931 Hildebrand Lane, sharing space with MVP Physical Therapy and osteopath Dr. Patrick Bays.

According to Sandler, it will operate much like any family practice, in which nurse practitioners perform a wide range of standard medical procedures – from wellness exams and routine immunizations to minor surgery. And, like family docs, they refer patients who need more advanced care to the appropriate medical specialist.

“We’re writing prescriptions for strep throat – the things that people typically see their doctors for,” Sandler said. “There isn’t too much that we don’t do.”

The trio is also highly trained; each has the master’s degree in nursing required to seek certification as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner.

Sandler says that practitioners typically have many years of nursing under their belts before undertaking the advanced certification.

“One reason nurse practitioners have become so strong is that they’ve based on many, many years of experience,” she said.

Sandler, the youngest of the trio, worked for 10 years as a critical care nurse before earning her degree at Pacific Lutheran University. Baker graduated from Seattle University and Van Voorhis from the University of Washington.

The new clinic brings some important philosophical differences to health care delivery, Sandler says.

One is a solid emphasis on preventive care, or “health promotion.” That boils down to keeping people well, instead of focusing on what to do after they get sick.

By contrast, she says, the “corporate” health care delivery system has been geared toward reimbursing physicians for performing remedial medical services.

“Traditional medicine has sort of jumped on the health promotion bandwagon in the last few years,” Sandler said, “but nurse practitioners have always focused on that. Family practice is becoming more oriented in that direction, but they still have a ways to go.”

Nurse practitioners have also gained a reputation for providing personalized service – “more than the requisite three minutes,” Sandler said. “Patients really want individualized care. So many people today have the feeling of being rushed, just pushed through a corporate system, never getting called back, never seeing the same doctor twice.”

Many doctors may be beginning to feel that way, too; as one physician told Sandler, “they’re pushing me to see 45 patients a day.”

According to Sandler, such frustrations have spawned an industry trend called “boutique medicine,” where patients pay a financial premium for more individualized care. Federal courts have recently outlawed the practice, ruling that physicians can’t set rates exceeding insurance standards.

By contrast, Sandler says, nurse practitioners excel at providing “boutique” personal care – without a price premium.

The clinic also offers health care options to those who have few alternatives. Bainbridge Family Care will accept patients with DSHS-sponsored medical programs such as Molina Health Care. For patients with no insurance, or daunting deductibles, the clinic will also offer a $35 office visit fee.

“Health care is not a privilege,” Sandler said. “It’s a right. People should get quality care, regardless of their insurance. We feel there’s a huge underserved population on this island, even though nobody likes to talk about it.

“With two of the three of us being islanders, we wanted to serve where we live – in our home community.”

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