Physical Therapy

Students Care for Local Farmworkers at Free Clinics

Written By: Karen Guin | August 3, 2016

Social work student Nancy Oquendo-Rolon conducts a triage assessment while a nursing student watches.
Social work student Nancy Oquendo-Rolon (left in black sweater) conducts a triage assessment while a nursing student (white shirt) watches (Photo courtesy of Tracy Wharton, Ph.D.)

UCF physical therapy and social work students and faculty members were among the 60-some volunteers who offered two free health clinics last week for Apopka-area farmworkers and their families.

They joined teams of UCF medical and nursing students, University of Florida pharmacy students, and local physicians and staff members to hold the July 26 and 28 clinics at the Farmworker Association of Florida’s building on Apopka Boulevard.

Together they provided interprofessional triage and services in dermatology, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, occupational health, ophthamology, pediatrics, pharmacy needs, physical therapy, rheumatology, and social work to more than 180 children and adults.

Most farmworkers and their families live in poverty and have limited access to health care services. The goal of the clinics was to offer compassionate care that included assessments, health education, recommendations and referrals.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Director Patrick Pabian, Associate Lecturer Jennifer Tucker and a dozen or so PT students brought in portable tables and other equipment to create a makeshift PT facility. There they conducted assessments, demonstrated activity modifications and recommended home exercises. Some served in triage as well.

Farmworkers perform physically demanding work, said Pabian, who presented a pre-clinic lecture to the care providers on injuries common to farmworkers, including those related to repetitive motion.

“We saw a lot of patients with spine problems, and some had shoulder, ankle and elbow pain and peripheral neuropathy,” he said. “All of the patients were uninsured and most were unemployed, so follow-up care is a huge challenge.”

Assistant Professor Tracy Wharton, Associate Instructor Robin Kohn and Instructor Mary Mann from the School of Social Work contributed their expertise too. They made pre-clinic presentations on professionalism and the special needs of the farmworker community. They also supervised social work students who developed educational materials in English and Spanish.

Wharton said she, her faculty colleagues and 18 social work students, volunteered at the clinics. The served on the interprofessional teams and provided behavioral health assessments.

Social work senior Nerisa Irving said she’s been taught to listen for key words that offer clues about homelessness, domestic abuse, alcoholism, grief and financial stress. “It’s not so much about talking, it’s about listening,” she said.

Pabian and Wharton said the clinics were terrific. Both are members of the UCF-UF interprofessional education committee and hope to work with their colleagues to plan more events like this in the future.

Associate Professor Judy Simms-Cendan with the UCF College of Medicine and Adjunct Instructor Heather Peralta with the UCF College of Nursing conceptualized the clinic events. To learn more about their colleges’ efforts, see the articles below.

Teamwork Serves Local Farmworkers – 7-29-16, UCF College of Medicine

UCF Nursing Students Reach Out to Apopka Farmworkers – 7-29-16, The Apopka Voice


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