COOK- Who could have guessed that pollen wafting through the skies of Georgia would someday bring a new and innovative medical practice, Bridge to Health P.A., to Cook?
Dr. Brittany Debeltz, APRN, DNP, FNP-BC is the owner and clinician at Bridge to Health, a certified family nurse practitioner familiar to many in the area through her past work with the Bois Forte Medical Clinic at Nett Lake and, more recently, Scenic Rivers Health Services, based in Cook.
Deciphering the alphabet soup following her name gives clues to Debeltz’s passion for rising to the top of the nursing profession. Originally a bachelor-degreed RN, she replaced those letters with APRN, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, by completing a Master’s degree at Minnesota State University that prepared her to provide primary health care through assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses and injuries, utilizing a holistic approach in working with her patients.
DNP is shorthand for Doctorate in Nursing Practice, a degree she received through MSU-Mankato. FNP, Family Nurse Practitioner, indicates Debeltz’s particular focus among numerous APRN specialty areas. And finally, RC represents a professional credentialing process that involves additional academic and leadership studies, concentrations that are already proving to be of use as Debeltz steps out on her own.
The Iron Range is home for Debeltz’s extended family, but her passion for nursing studies and practice might not have happened if she hadn’t spent most of her childhood growing up in the Deep South.
“I graduated from Hibbing High School and lived in Side Lake. My dad’s from Mt. Iron and my mom’s from Nashwauk, so my family is all up here. However, I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. My parents moved there for job opportunities.”
“It’s growing season down there all the time, and unfortunately I have a lot of environmental seasonal allergies,” Debeltz continued. “So, I was always in and out of the clinic with sinus infections.”
And while there were family friends who were nurses that Debeltz looked up to, those many clinic visits were instrumental in choosing a direction for her future career.
“When I was a patient I had a lot of good nurses, and it was just something I wanted to do. I knew right away,” she said.
A stint there in an accelerated magnet high school was followed by a move back to Hibbing, where she simultaneously worked on finishing high school and getting dual degrees at Hibbing Community College.
“I got my Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees at the same time,” Debeltz said.
Clinical experiences while she was working as an RN were a “turning point” for Debletz in deciding to become a family nurse practitioner. Frustrated that many patients she knew had diagnostic or treatment needs that had to wait on other health professionals processing orders, Debeltz decided she wanted to take a more active role.
“I just felt like I wanted to do more for my patients,” she said. “I wanted to be that person who could just do my orders and give my patients what they need without having to wait.”
Scope of practice
The theme of doing more popped up again in subsequent work environments with various procedures and roles that Debeltz felt were constraining her ability to provide the level of responsive, personal care she wanted. After about two years working at Scenic Rivers, the time and circumstances were ripe for her to step out on her own. Minnesota is among the states that allow nurse practitioners to work independently.
“As a nurse practitioner, you don’t need a collaborating physician,” Debeltz explained. “I can operate on my own under my own licensure and certification. I don’t have to have an MD to sign off on anything. We’re able to assess, diagnose, treat, and prescribe those sorts of things for patients that RNs cannot do. In general, our framework, our foundation is much different than an MD, as our coursework and education is focused on looking at people as a whole, looking at families as a whole, including all aspects of a person, not just their physical presenting symptoms. We look at the whole picture.”
Debeltz said she wants her practice to reflect the days when local family doctors knew their patients and families well beyond being a set of presenting symptoms.
“That family doctor knew everything about your family, your kids, and that helps a lot when it comes to certain illnesses or conditions because you can put a lot of pieces together when you know a person,” Debeltz said. “I think healthcare now has lost that. I feel like I wanted to bring that back. I want to know my patients, to treat them as a person and not a number. I think that’s a huge thing for outcomes.”
As a primary care provider, Debeltz provides all of the familiar services patients have come to expect with office-based health care, such as wellness visits, physicals, disease diagnoses, medication prescriptions and monitoring, acute care, some in-office lab testing, referrals to appropriate specialists, and more.
Direct primary care
What sets Bridge to Health apart from most other medical practices is its membership-based business model that isn’t driven by health insurance, a growing model in the healthcare industry called direct primary care.
“With Bridge to Health, you can become a member of the clinic for a monthly membership fee,” Debeltz said. “That membership includes unlimited office visits, so you can come in as many times as you want and there’s no extra cost.”
Individual monthly memberships range from $40 to $75, dependent on age, with an initial registration fee and discounts for groups of two or more. As an example, a 30-year-old patient who signs up for a $70 membership could have separate visits for an annual physical, weight loss counseling, blood pressure monitoring, and a minor medical procedure during the month without paying anything more. With insurance plans, patients typically have a co-pay every time they have a visit. The goals of direct primary care, Debeltz said, are to make care more affordable and accessible.
“If you have a sore throat tomorrow, you can come in, you don’t have to pay up front for that office visit,” Debeltz said. “You don’t have a co-pay, you don’t get a bill from me two months from now after it’s gone through insurance.”
However, Debeltz said that this model isn’t a substitute for health insurance. Patients should still have an insurance plan to cover medical needs that need to be addressed outside of what she can do in her office. That includes things like referrals to other health care providers, specialized diagnostic procedures, and hospitalization and emergency care.
Savings with Bridge to Health’s direct primary care model may also come when a patient can adjust the level of health insurance they have, Debeltz said. By using Bridge to Health for office-based services, patients may be able to choose health insurance plans with higher deductibles that come with lower premiums while still covering potential needs.
“I’ve had some patients who just became members, and they changed their (health insurance) plan for other catastrophic events, and they’re actually paying less,” Debeltz said, although given the variety of insurance carriers and plans, each patient will need to make their own assessment of what’s possible given their individual circumstances.
In-house lab tests, outside imaging, and rapid COVID tests are not covered by monthly memberships, but are available for a fee for members and non-members alike.
Debeltz also has a per-visit fee structure for those who would like to use Bridge for Health but don’t want to sign up for a membership.
Bridge to Health is located in the North Office center at 1817 Highway 53 in Cook. Detailed information about membership, services provided, pricing and more is available on the Bridge to Health website at www.bridgetohealthpa.com, or by calling 218-282-4925.