Wayland nurse tends to health of employees

PLAINVIEW - When a student at Wayland Baptist University gets sick, very often they begin by calling on Josie Gomez, a registered nurse and coordinator of student health services at Wayland. 

But for Wayland's faculty and staff, Gomez is also often their first line of defense if an illness or medical need comes up. In addition to providing the usual minor medical services - such as an over-the-counter decongestant for a stuffy nose or a bandage for a cut or scrape - Gomez is also able to provide and coordinate services that aim to keep employees healthy.

A big part of that is the annual wellness clinic coordinated through Covenant Hospital Plainview. Employees who are interested complete a questionnaire that details their eating and exercise habits and any other personal habits that can lead to illness. A team from Covenant then visits to draw blood and take blood pressure and pulse readings.

"The wellness profile is primarily blood chemistry related, including tests for cholesterol, triglycerides and optional tests that can detect cells that cause prostate cancer and ulcers," Gomez said. "We get the results back and the test tells us where we are lacking in nutrition or if we need to see a doctor about a specific issue."

Gomez said many employees appreciate the chance to do such screenings - much of which is covered by the WBU health insurance plan - and keep one step ahead of their health.

"It gives people an opportunity to take a few minutes here at work rather than scheduling an appointment with the doctor," she said. "I also keep up with people and help in any way I can."

For some employees, that means regular visits to Gomez' office for allergy shots, which she can administer with a doctor's permission. Many take advantage of the annual flu shots provided in Gomez' office at a minimal charge. Some follow up on their wellness results by keeping in touch with Gomez.

"I keep records and can help them monitor their weight or their blood pressure," she said. "Then when they get ready to go to their own doctor, I give them a copy of our records."

Having the access and accountability has proved valuable for several employees who voluntarily formed a "weigh-in" group after the holidays to keep tabs on their weight. Gomez said after two ladies contacted her, she opened the group to anyone on campus and the members visit weekly to be weighed and chart their progress. More than 20 employees are currently taking advantage of the service, and an optional jackpot of weekly donations is awarded each month to the person losing the most weight in that month.

Lena Morphis, assistant coordinator of accounts payable, said she brought up the idea to Gomez after feeling the need for some motivation and accountability in her quest to eat better and lose weight.

"When I know I'm going to get on those scales every week, it makes me more conscious of what I put in my mouth," Morphis said, adding that she also has Gomez monitor her blood sugar and enjoys the convenience of having all those services close to her office.

She said she also appreciates the fact that Gomez typically has some handout with healthy eating or exercise tips each week the weigh-in group visits, and she finds those helpful to keeping her diet in check.

Feeling that prevention is the key to good health, Gomez also schedules a yearly visit from a mobile mammography unit to make that service convenient for female employees.

Gomez, who is a certified Emergency Medical Technician, said she is also able to provide breathing treatments for individuals to stabilize them for further medical care. She also makes referrals to local and area physicians and specialists for those needing more in-depth medical attention.