WHEN FAMILIES come home for the holidays, they should be both happy and healthy. There are members of every community who avoid healthcare visits due to climbing expenses. But thanks to local volunteers, healthcare doesn’t have to be a scary and daunting dollar sign. It can be an opportunity to be happy and healthy for your family, just in time for the holidays. Karin Truitte, a registered nurse (RN), has worked with the clinic for years, constantly using her spare time to give back to the community. Her long career means she is skilled in many areas and has a lot of experience to share with her patients.
“I’ve worked in so many different fields over the almost 40 years of my professional career,” Truitte said. “With nursing, you can wear many different hats — and always do.”
Truitte began working at the clinic soon after her family moved to Lynchburg in 1993, jumping in even while taking care of two young children.
“It was immediately after we moved here and whenever I could get a break from the kids,” Truitte said. “It was something I could do for a few hours here and there.”
She volunteered for several years before taking a break for their fourth child but returned in early 2021 to help distribute vaccines and do other RN work.
The Free Clinic of Central Virginia has a few paid employees, but it functions primarily because of volunteers. Truitte’s husband comes in as a cardiologist, and they have many other sub-specialists as well: a neurologist, an OB-GYN, an endocrinologist, and an orthopedic surgeon, are just a few examples. Truitte said the patients who come in often have struggled to afford insurance, let alone healthcare. But the volunteer’s hard work means no one gets sub-par care. Everyone who comes in gets a complete check-up.
“I think they’re getting some of the best healthcare around, for sure,” Truitte said. “It’s kind of like you’re getting the whole person. They come in with a toothache, but there could be some major other health issues going on, so it’s really just providing total care.”
The Free Clinic is not the only place Truitte volunteers. She is also involved with Kids’ Haven: A Center for Grieving Children.
She serves on the executive board and is a facilitator for grief support groups for children at family group nights and at schools in the area. She is also part of the Medical Reserve Corps Truitte said volunteering often benefits her more than the people she helps.
“The work you’re doing is so rewarding – not just me – I mean everybody that’s helping people that need help,” Truitte said. “That’s just what fuels me.”
Part of that benefit comes from hearing the stories patients tell and the struggles they have gotten through to make it so far.
“The people are so inspiring,” Truitte said. “Providing services for somebody like that is just to know what they have been through in their lives. It’s an opportunity for me.”
Connecting with people is a talent of Truitte’s, according to Jen Webb, CEO of the Free Clinic of Central Virginia. During the pandemic, the two worked together to provide vaccines for shut-ins, and Webb said she would never forget watching Truitte’s love for human beings.
“Everyone that works with her [trusts] her,” Webb said. “She takes the time to get to know you – who you are and where you come from.”
Since Truitte began working with the clinic again, the options available for patients have grown tremendously. Specialty care is available more often, and more student volunteers from the University of Lynchburg and Liberty University also come in. Webb said Truitte has been a part of that growth by volunteering weekly at the clinic. She was recently elected to the board, taking her involvement to a new level.
“She has improved the free clinic by bringing in new volunteers, talking about us in the community, making sure that staff and patients have everything they need, and just being passionate about what we do,” Webb said. “I think the drive to help other people [is] just part of her DNA. It comes so naturally, and you can feel the joy that she feels from doing the work.”
The praise goes both ways, of course. Truitte said all of the paid employees at the free clinic are superstars to her. The work the clinic has been doing since it began in 1987 is truly remarkable, and it continues to provide high-quality care for the underserved in the area.
“I just hope that people know what an asset the free clinic is to our community,” Truitte said. “It’s just unbelievable what they do.” GN