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Nursing students learn valuable lessons in poverty simulation

Posted: Thursday, September 05, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 18

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Soon-to-be-graduate Elisha Edrington-Medina (seated), who participated in the poverty simulation in June and returned as volunteer, speaks with participant Cassandra Ragin, who is asking for assistance at the inter-faith services table. As in real life, many poverty simulation participants did not know to ask for assistance or think they would qualify for help
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Soon-to-be-graduate Elisha Edrington-Medina (seated), who participated in the poverty simulation in June and returned as volunteer, speaks with participant Cassandra Ragin, who is asking for assistance at the inter-faith services table. As in real life, many poverty simulation participants did not know to ask for assistance or think they would qualify for helpclear graphic

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By Catherine Duncan, 210-567-2570

On the first day of class Aug. 26, fourth-semester nursing students began their “Population-Focused Health” course with a frustrating, enlightening and exhausting experience at a community center on the West Side.

These future nurses learned a lesson in empathy by role-playing a month in the life of an impoverished person in San Antonio.

Walking in their shoes
During the poverty simulation exercise, nursing students took on the life of persons with various hardships. One played the role of a single parent trying to care for his children. Another was a senior citizen with failing health trying to live on social security. Each family used its nominal income to pay for housing, food and other necessities. The students learned how their patients must interact with various community resources in order to get assistance. They also learned the obstacles the underserved have in obtaining health care because of transportation and financial issues.

Nursing students’ impressions
Elisha Edrington-Medina, who will graduate this month with a bachelor of science in nursing, volunteered at the simulation. She and her fellow accelerated B.S.N. class members participated in the first session in June.

“During the simulation, I was a child living with her grandparents. I learned about a different type of family system. This child had to rely on her grandparents, but they had financial problems and ended up being evicted from their home. I then saw what the homeless must go through in an effort to get back in a home. It was a real eye opener,” she said. “I can’t even imagine the stress they go through every day.”

Edrington-Medina said the experience has caused her to consider going into community nursing. “I think you can make a bigger difference and help more people. When we went out into the community later in this class, we met so many people who did not know the services that are available to them,” she said.

Reality check
Nursing student Leonard Bermudez said he was shocked to learn everything these families go through on a daily basis.

“They have problems with transportation. They cannot get to work or to a place to get assistance. They must go through so many procedures just to get assistance. I think I will better understand the stresses and challenges they face. I can help them understand what is available to them,” he said.

Providing care to patients who live in poverty
During this fall’s semester, the students will take what they learned during the poverty simulation and use it as they attain hands-on experience working at Haven for Hope, senior citizen centers and day care centers, and while performing home visits.

Eight zip codes in San Antonio have more than 50 percent of residents living below the poverty line. Thirty-one percent of San Antonio children live below the poverty line, according to 2011 census data.

Preparation for nursing practice
Simulation facilitator Marion Donohoe, D.N.P., APRN, CPNP-PC, assistant professor in the Department of Family & Community Health Systems, said the poverty simulation will help the students when they are speaking to community members.

“By earning their trust, the person will actually speak honestly with the health care provider. This trust and accurate sharing of information will allow them to better help their patients,” Dr. Donohoe said.


During the poverty simulation, students Roxanne Cribbs (far left) and Victoria Rodriguez meet with Della Wagner, M.S.N., who is working at the community health care table. As in reality, many participants did not seek health care after spending their limited income on housing, utilities, food and debt.
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During the poverty simulation, students Roxanne Cribbs (far left) and Victoria Rodriguez meet with Della Wagner, M.S.N., who is working at the community health care table. As in reality, many participants did not seek health care after spending their limited income on housing, utilities, food and debt. clear graphic

 

Faculty team
The other poverty simulation facilitators from the Department of Family & Community Health Systems are Martha Martinez, M.S.N., RN, clinical assistant professor, and Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor. Teri Boese, M.S.N., RN, director of the Clinical Learning Laboratory & Simulation Center, also serves as a facilitator of the poverty simulation.

 
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