For more than 50 years, AmeriCorps has been living their mission of lifting people out of poverty. The Wright Center has been awarded sponsorship of four Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members annually for a period of three years. VISTAs will contribute to various service lines within the organization, with the goal of improving and expanding our service offerings and access to quality healthcare for our underserved communities that need it most.
One of the program’s core focus areas is The Wright Center’s School-Based Health Clinic at West Scranton Intermediate School, a primary care clinic providing accessible care to students and the surrounding community that opened in the fall of 2017. As a VISTA Member, Kristin McHale has set out to make meaningful contributions to the school-based health center.
Why did you apply to become a VISTA Member?
I was just finishing up my master’s degree and knew my goal was to work in healthcare. I was thinking about going to medical school, physician assistant school or nurse practitioner school, and knew that I would have a gap year before starting any type of program. I had also always been working full-time or going to school full-time, and never had the time to volunteer. I knew about The Wright Center and when I learned about the VISTA program it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my interest in the medical field with volunteer work, all in a place I was already familiar with.
What does a typical day as a VISTA look like?
It’s very busy. I’m at the school-based health clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays and in the office Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In the clinic, we see everything from schoolchildren to adult patients and elderly patients.
Tell us about some of your recent/ongoing projects.
One of my most recent projects was working on the Listen for Good grant. We had to come up with a survey to give to the parents of school-aged kids to see what services we should offer in the future. I worked on creating the survey and, since we’re planning on publishing the results, I’m having the opportunity to work with the research department and the IRB, which I have never done before. This summer, we’re doing vaccine clinics for the second year, so I’m working with Allyson and Kellen Kraky to coordinate with the different school districts. There’s a big need for this program. If the kids aren’t vaccinated, they can’t start school under new Pennsylvania laws.
What are some memorable experiences you’ve had as a VISTA?
Just seeing the kids in the office all of the time is great. It’s nice to know that they’re being helped.
How have you seen the VISTA program impact the community?
We plan on starting a community volunteer project in the next few months where we can put together a group of volunteers to work with the VISTAs. The program will impact both the school-based clinic and The Wright Center overall. That’s one of the focuses of the Americorp program — we’re trying to create a program that is still happening even after my time as a VISTA ends.
How will being a VISTA member inform your future career?
I worked as an EMT while at school, which is a much different experience than being in the clinic every day. Being a VISTA has made me well-rounded. Working with the nurse practitioners also cemented my decision to become a nurse practitioner myself — I like the philosophy of nursing.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to be a nurse practitioner working in primary care, taking care of people who need it most. I also gradually hope to become a leader and a role model to make change. I grew up in Scranton and could see myself staying here; even if I go away for school, I’ll most likely return.