HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – There is a new big blue bus on a mission to help break the healthcare barriers in Southampton County.

With $4 million in funding, the Old Dominion University School of Nursing can now help underserved communities, fulfilling a wish by Carolyn Rutledge, associate chair of the nursing school after finding a grant to help pay for the new program.

“There is transportation. There is financial. There is a lack of support. There is a lack of health care access. Right? That is the biggest need for us to meet the patients where they are,” said Amanda Hudgins, the lead provider of the mobile van.

Said Rutledge: “I actually got teary eyes because it tied together everything.”

On the road will be nurse practitioners and other medical professionals from different specialties.

“We can do a full exam in there,” said Tammy Speerhas, director of ODU Community Care. “We will have simple point-of-care testing, including glucose, urine analysis, strep throat and hemoglobin A1C.”

This will ensure the best care for patients.

Alongside the providers will be ODU nursing students so they can get hands-on experiences.

“Those students need hands-on experience,” Hudgins said. “We need to move them out of the classroom and get them hands-on boots-on-the-ground experience with patients.”

The hope is that students will plant their roots in Southampton County.

“Our underpinning for that is to get nurse practitioners students submerged in underserved populations, so they will want to stay there and provide care there,” Hudgins said.

The team will first start at Franklin City Schools around the middle of April.

“We learned those children are lacking so much access. Not only for health care, but their requirement to be in school,” Hudgins said.

She said they will slowly expand.

“I see us moving from place to place,” Hudgins said, “establishing different areas we can park the van for a day and provide care.”

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