Spokane Teaching Health Clinic

(This story appears in the latest edition of the WSU Spokane Magazine)

By Lorraine Nelson

The new Spokane Teaching Health Clinic is creating excitement for the students and professors in health sciences programs on the WSU Spokane and Eastern Washington University Spokane campus.

“It’s huge,” is how Meryl Gersh summarized it. Gersh, Ph.D., P.T., is the chair of EWU’s doctor of physical therapy program, which is located on the Spokane campus.

“Right now our students do not get to fully apply their skills until they reach their third year of the program which is comprised of 35 weeks of full-time clinical internships,” Gersh said. “We can use the new clinic to help the students integrate the academics and the basic skills earlier in the program. For example, they may be learning about shoulder injuries and be able to go to the clinic to observe a patient with a shoulder injury being examined by the physical therapist working there.”

Sarah Fincham, D.N.P., A.R.N.P., was a nurse practitioner for almost nine years before joining the WSU nursing faculty in fall 2015. She is hoping to be assigned to work with students and patients at the new clinic.

“Everyone is excited about collaborating in these teams,” Fincham said. “There aren’t too many universities where this is happening.”

Spokane Teaching Health ClinicThe clinic will expose students in the family nurse practitioner program to patients of all ages, including children, pregnant women, adults and geriatric patients, which is a great opportunity to see a variety of patients in a single clinic setting.

“It’s going to allow the students to see across the life span and help them develop the skills they will need to care for a variety of patients, including those with multiple chronic illnesses,” Fincham said.

The clinic is a result of a consortium formed by Providence Health Care, Empire Health Foundation and WSU Spokane. Construction was financed with revenue bonds issued by WSU. Once it is finished, Providence will move its medical residency clinic from the Fifth and Browne Medical Building clinic to the new clinic. Last year, the Providence clinic served about 35,000 patients. The new clinic expects to serve many of the same patients, as well as students and employees on campus and others in the community.

“The interprofessional focus of this clinic will benefit the patients who choose us for their primary needs,” said Traci Couture, STHC operations director. “They will have access to not only physicians, but nurse practitioners, pharmacists, social workers, physical therapists and occupational therapists.”

Faculty representatives of all the major programs on campus have been talking about how best to organize the clinic to emphasize interprofessional education for the students, and team-based care for the patients.

Nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy and occupational therapy programs on campus also see the clinic as a steady, reliable site for some of the clinical rotations required of their students prior to graduation.

“We are still discussing how the work will flow among the teams,” said Fincham. “This will be a great opportunity for health care professionals from different disciplines to come together in a single clinic and collaborate to improve patient care.”

What is a medical resident?

A new physician who has graduated with a medical degree but now must spend at least three years as a medical resident in on-the-job training.

Why is the Spokane Teaching Health Clinic important to medical residencies?

More medical residents are needed in eastern Washington. Federal money became available for residents, but was earmarked for teaching health centers only, so the Spokane Teaching Health Center was created in 2013. It is now the sponsoring institution in Spokane for most residencies (Providence has retained sponsorship of residencies in radiology and psychiatry).

What medical residencies will be at the STHC initially?

  • Family medicine: 30
  • Internal medicine: 30
  • Family medicine, rural track: 2
  • Psychiatry: 6
  • Sports Medicine Fellowship: 1

Spokane Teaching Health Clinic


DECEMBER 2013: Providence Health Care, Empire Health Foundation and WSU Health Sciences Spokane form a consortium to create the Spokane Teaching Health Center (STHC)

JULY 2014: First class of six new medical residents begin work because of the STHC, raising the total number of Spokane residents from 74 to 80

SEPTEMBER 2014: WSU Board of Regents approves $16.2 million in general revenue bonds to finance clinic construction

JULY 2015: Nine more new medical residents begin work because of the STHC

JULY 2016: Ten more new medical residents will begin, for a total of 25 positions added in three years

AUGUST 2016: Expected opening

Clinic Fast Facts

  • Clinic will model interprofessional primary care
  • $16 million to construct
  • Construction financed with WSU revenue bonds
  • 42,000 square feet
  • Two-story
  • 56 exam rooms
  • On WSU Spokane’s campus
  • Providence’s Medical Residency Clinic at Fifth and Browne will be moved to the STHC
  • WSU faculty in medicine, nursing, and pharmacy will use the clinic for teaching students
  • EWU faculty in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and social work also will use the clinic for teaching