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How VCU Health Hub at 25th and the School of Nursing team up to serve Richmond’s East End community

The partnership provides programming to empower residents on their health journeys, all while giving VCU nursing students opportunities to deliver culturally competent care.

Two women in a room together Clinical associate professor Kimberly Battle, Ph.D., RN, FNP-BC, holds weekly sessions with students at the VCU Health Hub at 25th as a participating faculty with VCU School of Nursing’s Mobile Health and Wellness Program. (Tyler Trumbo, MCV Foundation)

By Caitlin Hanbury

Located at the corner of Nine Mile Road and North 25th Street in Richmond's East End, the VCU Health Hub has delivered an innovative mix of community engagement and health promotion offerings since opening its doors in May 2019.

With a mission to improve health outcomes of the East End community, the staff of the Health Hub collaborate with a wide range of partners to provide free services to residents, including care navigation and coordination, legal and housing assistance, food and transportation access, health education and wellness programs.

At the core of the Health Hub’s success lies a partnership with the Mobile Health and Wellness Program (MHWP), a community engagement initiative of Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Nursing.

With a shared mission to serve the community, MHWP and the Health Hub forged a partnership that dates back to the Hub’s founding. Through that partnership, the Hub gains valuable nursing expertise and human resources to deliver its programs, and MHWP maintains a community health learning site where students can learn how to deliver culturally competent and inclusive care.

This unique collaboration has not only enhanced existing Health Hub programs but has also sparked new initiative solutions to address health disparities.

Building and street

The VCU Health Hub at 25th serves residents of Richmond’s East End. (Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

"Our partnership with the VCU School of Nursing and MHWP is critical as one of our anchor partners to deliver a range of services and programs the East End community would otherwise not have available to them," said Rich Killingsworth, M.P.H., executive director of the VCU Health Hub at 25th.

In a typical week, three nursing faculty and approximately 10 students who work with MHWP form the backbone of some of the Hub’s essential programs, providing case management for participants living in nearby senior housing.

“I think the partnership is critically necessary to expose faculty, staff and students to community-based experiences. The partnership helps us in many ways especially in helping us to identify other program and partner needs important to the community such as prevention, screening, identification and referral efforts related to diabetes, hypertension, obesity or mental health,” Killingsworth said.

Developing tomorrow’s providers in a community care setting

The collaboration between MHWP and the Health Hub focuses on overcoming various obstacles, with a strong emphasis on improving accessibility.

Joyce Carter, a resident of the East End and an active participant at the Health Hub, highlighted how the available programs have positively impacted both her health care journey and overall well-being.

"The Health Hub keeps me from going to the doctor because I can get certain things checked here and it's close to home. I enjoy the programs that they offer and that I attend like MHWP, Fitness Warriors and the Diabetes Prevention Program,” she said.

The inclusive atmosphere fosters community among participants, something Carter hopes her friends take advantage of too.

“I'm trying to recommend my friends to come here,” she added.

While working with program participants on their own health care journeys, the nurses of tomorrow gain invaluable real-world experiences that will influence the rest of their careers.

In community health settings like the Health Hub, students at all levels of practice get meaningful experience in applying culturally competent care to address the needs of local populations. Clinical associate professor Kimberly Battle, Ph.D., RN, FNP-BC, in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing holds weekly sessions with students at the Hub as a participating faculty with MHWP.

“By participating in this community-based engaged clinical experience with both pre-licensure and advanced practice nursing students, I truly value sharing the significance of directly teaching students the importance of the intersection of health promotion, wellness and social determinants of health impact health outcomes – especially working on the research arm of developing the Prescription Produce Program as a member of the food and nutrition arm of the Mobile Health and Wellness Program,” Battle explained.

Genevieve Beaird, Ph.D., RNC-OB, CNE, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing, has seen the benefit of teaching students in a community health setting like the Health Hub firsthand.

“When we work with individuals in a hospital or clinic setting – we are essentially on ‘our’ turf. I feel like l have developed such a stronger understanding of the challenges people face when outside of the four walls of the healthcare system," she explained. “ I am able to share these stories with students... [to] help them have a deeper consideration for the challenges that people face in their future practice."

Delivering holistic care to Richmonders

Nursing is founded in a holistic approach, addressing not only the physical health of individuals but also considers the mental, emotional, and environmental factors that play into overall well-being. The Health Hub provides an environment for practitioners to use and model that full skillset.

“I value the opportunity to work with individuals within the context of their own lives. We are able to provide time and space to address a wide range of needs – creating really meaningful support for individuals and the community,” Beaird said.

Woman talking

Kimberly Battle, Ph.D., RN, FNP-BC, says participating in community-based programs helps students understand how health outcomes are impacted by the intersection of health promotion, wellness and social determinants of health. (Tyler Trumbo, MCV Foundation)

Modeling nursing practice in a setting like the Hub helps students develop an early and keen sense of what they will encounter in practice and how to creatively address or work through root causes that affect health outcomes.

“Overall, my skills are sharpened as an educator and provider at the Health Hub as one cannot predict what specific need a participant may present with on a day or situation may present itself at the Health Hub as we are there to serve the community,” Battle explained.

The work of the VCU Health Hub and School of Nursing is a testament to the winning combination of collaboration and community-driven change.

“Without question, the Hub and VCU School of Nursing are operating as one when it comes to transformative learning, community-based experiences, professional education, continuing education, competency development, and teaching provider skills. We are honored to share this mission and work with the VCU School of Nursing in affecting critical change and impact in Richmond’s East End,” Killingsworth said.

Learn more about the VCU Health Hub at 25th, a Richmond East End health education and wellness activity center.

See how VCU Health is addressing barriers and creating opportunities for our neighbors to lead healthy lives.