Offering a Primary Care Resource to Students in Need

Western Maine Health

Tiana, an active seventh-grade student at Oxford Hills Middle School, was warming up on the basketball court when she received the first hit to her head with a basketball. A couple of days later she was struck again with a volleyball. Then she knew something was wrong. A visit to Deb Nichols, pediatric nurse practitioner at the Oxford Hills School Based Health Center (SBHC), confirmed a concussion.

Tiana and her mother said the guidance, education and concussion management through the School Based Health Center were remarkable. Tiana was out of school for several weeks and nearly four months without sports. During this time, Tiana was treated solely through the School Based Health Center. Even today, if she feels the need to be seen or has a question, she feels welcome to stop by the clinic at any time.

“You don’t understand the value of the clinic until you need it, and access to care is almost immediate during the school day,” said Tiana’s mother.

Although the clinic provides a host of services, Deb is passionate about concussion management and serves as a board member and educator for the Maine Concussion Management Initiative (MCMI). MCMI collaborates with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University in publishing research-based articles using data that MCMI has collected in neurocognitive testing.

Deb also served as a member of the Department of Education Concussion Workgroup that spearheaded the efforts to provide standardization of concussion recognition, diagnosis and management in Maine.

Western Maine Health launched the School Based Health Center in 1996 at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School as a pilot program. This year marks the 20th year of the program, which has continued to grow to include the Oxford Hills Middle School. All services are provided at no cost to students. For many of them, the SBHC is a vital resource for primary care.

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