Joey Debate - Nurse Practitioner
Author: Paul deVere | Photographer: Photography by Anne
“HEALTH PROBLEMS ARE LIKE BAD WASHING MACHINES,” SAID NURSE PRACTITIONER JOEY DEBATE. “THEY ALWAYS BREAK DOWN AFTER FIVE OR ON WEEKENDS,” WHICH IS ONE REASON HE STARTED HIS “AFTER HOURS” CLINIC AT CROSS ISLAND MEDICAL CENTER. THE CLINIC IS OPEN TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, AND FRIDAY, FROM 5-9PM, AND ON SATURDAY, 9AM – 2PM. THE CENTER IS DR. DAVID DORSNER’S, WHO PRACTICES THERE DURING THE DAY.
DeAbate said that when he first opened three years ago, many clients owned just one car and that a sick family member would have to wait until a parent returned from work to get medical help. “My clinic started out to be more of a Hispanic clinic. For the people who didn’t fall into the Volunteers in Medicine [requirements] and for lack of another option, would go to the emergency room,” DeAbate explained.
“But my waiting room changed. I really didn’t realize it, but it was right in the midst of the economy crashing when I opened,” DeAbate said. Now he sees residents from all over the island as well as tourists. “My patients are now locals and tourists with swimmers ear, that sort of thing. We see everybody.”
It was DeAbate’s 32 hours a week in the Hilton Head Regional Medical Center’s ER where he first saw the need for his clinic. “In the ER, I tell folks, we look at the things that will kill you then work our way back. That’s where we start, because that’s the standard we’re held to. We have to go that extra mile. When you go there with a headache, we don’t just give you some meds and send you home. You have to have a CT scan to make sure it’s not something more serious.
“When you come to see us here at the clinic, we treat what is most common. If you’ve got pressure behind the maxillary sinus and a runny nose and tearing of one eye, we think sinus infection. In the ER, they think tumor,” said DeAbate. “People don’t understand that, so they’ll go to ER for a rash or sinus pressure… and come out with a bill they really can’t afford, through no fault of the ER.”
DeAbate came to the island 10 years ago as a nurse. He’d served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. Then the Palace Chase program came along; he was sent to nursing school and, as the program required, joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He now holds the rank of major. He received his NP degree in adult care in Savannah in 2003. When pediatric care was offered in 2004, he went back to school for his certification. “It gives me the ability to have that full, broad spectrum, from old to young,” said DeAbate.
He described the type of care nurse practitioners and specifically his clinic provide. “Nurse practitioners follow their own model, taking a more holistic approach. It takes a different type of person to look at the patient and say, ‘You know what? They can’t afford that medication.’ We need to find a different avenue or find a creative way to get that (if there is nothing else). We look at the whole person. Once we get the medication, we ask, ‘Can the patient administer it himself or does he have anybody at home?’ We look at the whole picture,” explained DeAbate.
“The clinic is for folks who may not have another outlet. They can come to me; we can treat them at a reduced rate, well, the most affordable anyway. We have everything they need here. I’ve got x-ray; I’ve got labs; I can do cholesterol in house. I think a typical test takes 10 to 20 minutes to run. It’s all done right here. Nurse practitioners are a great extension for a physician,” DeAbate said.
When DeAbate first came to Hilton Head, he didn’t know anything about the island. “But I immediately discovered it was fantastic. It is a small community, like the town I grew up in. In wintertime, you practically knew everybody,” DeAbate said smiling. That small town was Balboa, Panama, the Canal Zone, American Sector.
DeAbate credits the community of Hilton Head, especially the medical community, for the support he has received. He said his weekly job at Hilton Head Hospital hones his skills. He works at the Cross Island Medical Center during the day. When he brought up the idea of the clinic to Dr. Dorsner, the physician said, “Good idea. I close at 5, you open at 5.” DeAbate also works for Dr. Patrick Jordan one day a week, helping out at his clinic on the south end of the island. DeAbate said he treasures their relationship. Then, of course, there are his monthly trips to Atlanta, when he becomes Major DeAbate with his reserve unit.
When does he sleep? When does he eat?
DeAbate replied: “Busy? I love it. I don’t know any other way.”
The Clinic at Cross Island Medical Center
157 William Hilton Parkway
www.hiltonheadurgentcare.com 843.338.1598 or 843.681.8260