Nursing Students Fill Vital Role at Mission Arlington During Pandemic

With healthcare worker volunteers in short supply this year, nursing students came to the rescue of the nonprofit's free clinic to help patients with medical care

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The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on nonprofits who need volunteers.

It has also been difficult on healthcare students who require in-person clinical experience.

Luckily, both needs are being addressed in a unique partnership at Mission Arlington.

Since the spring, vocational nursing students from Concorde Career Colleges, which has a campus in Grand Prairie, have filled a vital role in Mission Arlington's free clinic. The nonprofit serves close to 200 people every week with free and basic medical care.

The free care has become a necessity during the public health crisis and it's also turned into a true calling for students like Abrisha Hall.

"It's like it's second nature,” Hall said. "I just have a passion for helping people.”

After working for many years in the healthcare field, she decided in May to pursue a degree in the vocational nursing program at Concorde. She said she couldn’t have picked a better time to obtain the ultimate learning experience at Mission Arlington.

Alanna Quillen
Nursing students with Concorde Career College are getting a unique experience at Mission Arlington.

"Because without them, we might not have been able to continue,” she said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly local doctors and nurses volunteered their time to help patients at the clinic.

But since the world changed, executive director Tillie Burgin said those volunteers are slim to none and that's where the students come in.

"We thank God for them. These folks coming to step into that medical clinic when there was no one was huge,” Burgin said.

Hall and her classmates are learning how to triage, check vitals, and interact with patients. They are guided by instructors like Dr. Mary Petty-Alexander, director of nursing for Concorde College. She has more than two decades of nursing experience.

"As a nurse, we are here to serve our community,” she said.

Dr. Petty-Alexander guides the students in their day to day learning at Mission Arlington. She said the pandemic has made it hard for many medical students to find a place that will allow them to get clinical hours.

"Texas has approximately 88 vocational nursing programs and of course, due to the pandemic, not all of them have been able to continue successfully because a lot of the students weren't able to get any clinical hours,” she explained.

The nursing students also help out at Mission Arlington's food bank, clothes closet and other areas of the facility as needs continue to grow during the economic downtown.

Alanna Quillen
A Concorde nursing students helps fold clothes in the community closet.

"The Lord has shown us ways to help more people. Because of them, we've been able to take care of more people,” Burgin said. "More people are in trouble and struggling because of the virus.”

It's a mission these students hope to live by, long after their time here is over.

"This instills that value in them to be able to serve their community and pay it forward. So this has been a true a blessing for everybody,” said Dr. Petty-Alexander.

Nursing students with Concorde Career College have normally taken part in the learning program with Mission Arlington over the years but the partnership was up in the air this year due to schools going virtual and restrictions going into place.

Since March, Mission Arlington has helped over 50,000 families with food, clothes and medical care.

Currently, the nonprofit volunteers are one of the biggest. Volunteer work includes helping deliver furniture to families, sorting clothes, and helping prepare the facility for the holidays.

There is no age limit for volunteering at Mission Arlington and families can come together to help out.

Volunteer days and times are Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Masks are required onsite.

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