Linda Carpenter: In Her Own Words


As Interviewed by Avery Evans, March 1, 2018

Linda Carpenter: In Her Own Words

My name is Linda Carpenter. I spent many years as a nurse- over 45 years, and my last job at The University of Texas at Austin was as Assistant Dean was for Student Affairs and then later as Assistant Dean for undergraduate programs in the School of Nursing.

If we are the nurse in charge of that patientís care, you take care of them whether you like it or not. I spent the summer working on an Indian reservation in Reno, Nevada. You go into their homes and basically take care of their baby, you know, babyís not growing well and you try to figure out why - it sounds simple, but you go into their homes and you see they donít have running water; she doesnít have a measuring cup to make sure the formula is measured correctly. I mean it sounds like the simplest thing...and I think as a young college student I had no idea that people lived that way. I was used to, and very passionate about, taking care of children from underserved populations, that was just a part of what I did all those years. One of my first jobs was in the Bernalillo County Indian Hospital in New Mexico, so obviously that was something that I was fascinated about.

The Del Valle school district became a partner with the UT School of Nursing, and they supplied the building, and you know, utilities - electricity, water, all that kind of stuff, so they really wanted us there. We kept some numbers, when we first started there in, I believe it was 1995, when the whole thing actually started. Their attendance was poor, particularly at the beginning of the school year, because they didnít have all the immunizations that they needed. It took a couple weeks to figure out where to go to get that done, another week or two to get an appointment, it was on and on. And so by having a school-based clinic, it could be 15 minutes - go to the clinic and get what you need and boom youíre back in school, that was actually translated into dollars- the school district loses money if the kids are not in school. So we solved that problem in a lot of ways. The immunization rate went from the low 80ís, which is what it was across the state at the time, to 99% within a few years, because there we were, right across the sidewalk to give immunizations. It was a simple kind of thing but obviously we did something about that. So we improved school attendance. We also improved school attendance by having less sick days- the kids didnít stay out of school, didnít have anywhere to go to get care, but then they could get care there, and if they needed to stay home, fine, it was a day, but everything got better because they had access to care. One of the pediatricians that we had working with us said that weíre doing a lot more than health care here, weíre changing the community.