In February, we think a lot about the heart – at least, the cutesy red or pink kind that’s plastered on everything in honor of Valentine’s Day. However, what about the real, all-important, blood-pumping heart?
On the second Wednesday of every month, the Rogers Free Library in Bristol offers something you might not expect from your local library: free blood pressure screenings.
Ten years ago, Visiting Nurse Home & Hospice, formerly the Visiting Nurse Service of Newport and Bristol Counties, reached out to the library when it moved to its current location on Hope Street. For one hour once a month, a nurse – currently Sister Ellen Martin – visits to check clients’ blood pressure. According to the library’s Assistant Director Kathy McGovern and Visiting Nurse’s Community Clinic Manager Nan Haffenreffer, Martin has a regular following of patrons that come in for the screening.
“[The nurses] get to know their clients and their medications,” explains Haffenreffer. Clients will often return month after month, and the nurse will be able to keep an eye on and monitor their status, even offering referrals when needed. She describes the process as a more personal way to get informed about your health rather than simply sticking your arm in a machine at the store. “It’s a human to human interaction,” she says. This past year, the library saw 82 of those interactions – likely from six to eight recurring individuals, guesses Haffenreffer – during the monthly screenings.
Visiting Nurse hosts similar wellness clinics at other locations across the East Bay, like at the Peck Center for Adult Enrichment in Barrington, Jamestown Housing at Pemberton, and the Little Compton Wellness Center. It’s part of their mission to serve the communities for which they provide home care, says Haffenreffer, and the leaders of these clinics are incredibly dedicated. Rogers Free Library is an unexpected venue to offer these screenings, compared to an adult or senior center, she acknowledges. But this is also what makes it special.