Old Dominion University's Student-Run Mobile Health Clinic
- Need: To fill gaps in care for rural communities in southeastern Virginia while providing clinical placement opportunities for nursing students.
- Intervention: A free mobile health clinic staffed by Old Dominion University nursing students that visits rural schools and other community centers.
- Results: Hundreds of students have gained hands-on rural experience working in the clinic since its launch.
The mobile health clinic has partnered with towns and
school districts in southeastern Virginia to offer free
care three days a week at stops that include community
centers, such as local fire stations, and schools. The
clinic serves a rural region that has few primary care
physicians and no local specialists.
On a given day, the clinic is staffed by a faculty member
who acts as lead provider – typically a nurse
practitioner – along with a range of students that may
include Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students,
nurse practitioner students, Doctor of Nursing Practice
(DNP) students, and students in the university's Human
Services program. Patients can be treated for acute
issues, such as infections or injuries, or can receive
general wellness exams and assistance in managing chronic
conditions. Certain days may be dedicated to specialty
areas such as dental care, mental health counseling,
physical and occupational therapy, and speech language
pathology; students in these specialty programs are
brought in to work in the clinic as needed. For example,
a student studying to become an athletic trainer might be
called in to help perform physicals for high school
athletes on a designated day. The clinic has also
partnered with Sentara
Health's mobile mammogram van to dedicate one day a
month to women's health.
For faculty and students who live in other parts of the
state, the university has rented a townhouse in the rural
town of Franklin. Students and faculty can stay at the
townhouse and immerse themselves in the community for up
to a week while working in the clinic.
The mobile clinic is not intended as a substitute for
primary care. To help patients get back into regular
primary care, clinic staff can assist them with insurance
enrollment or contact local health care providers to
refer a patient into care.
The clinic saw roughly 100 adults between May and
November 2023, and saw more than 500 children for
back-to-school or sports physicals during that time. More
than 200 students across various disciplines have
participated in ODU Community Cares events.
Because ODU's student-run, university-affiliated mobile
clinic is the first of its kind that the program's
organizers are aware of, designing and creating the
clinic meant building a model from scratch without a
“playbook” to work from, they said.
Continuing to build community partnerships, and figuring
out a sustainable long-term funding model, are also
Clinic organizers encourage other universities interested
in establishing a similar program to talk to local
communities first to find out what kinds of care and
services are most needed. Having input and support from
the communities the clinic serves has been key to the
clinic's success thus far, clinic organizers say. A
thorough community needs assessment can help point
organizers in the right direction when getting a mobile
clinic program off the ground.
Health workforce education and training
Health workforce pipeline
Interprofessional training of the health workforce
Mobile and episodic healthcare delivery
Recruitment and retention of health professionals
Uninsured and underinsured
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
November 8, 2023
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Old Dominion University's Student-Run Mobile Health Clinic [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 28 February 2024]
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programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
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in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.