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Nursing students learn about poverty to improve health care

Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 · Volume: XLVII · Issue: 5


Suwal Dangol (left) and Tomekia Starling learn how difficult it is to stretch their budgets as participants in the School of Nursing’s poverty simulation. Both students are earning Master of Science in Nursing degrees and are working towards Family Nurse Practitioner certification.
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Suwal Dangol (left) and Tomekia Starling learn how difficult it is to stretch their budgets as participants in the School of Nursing’s poverty simulation. Both students are earning Master of Science in Nursing degrees and are working towards Family Nurse Practitioner certification. clear graphic

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By Catherine Duncan

The School of Nursing at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio hosted its first multidisciplinary poverty simulation. During the simulation Feb. 3, medical and nursing students, as well as faculty and community action leaders, learned about the challenges faced by patients who live with the constant stress of poverty.

Stepping into another’s shoes
Participants played the roles of individuals in low-income families. For example, one student was a single parent trying to care for her children while another played the role of a senior citizen with failing health living on social security.

Each student used his or her nominal income to pay for housing, food and other necessities for their families. Participants learned how individuals with limited means access community resources for assistance. They also learned the obstacles the underserved face in trying to obtain health care.

The first 90 minutes involved role playing a month in the life of someone experiencing poverty. The second 90 minutes included a debriefing, with participants reviewing their experiences, including how it made them feel and what happened to them during the “month.”

Disappointment and frustration are emotions many of the nursing students experienced during the poverty simulation. Fourth-year nursing student Brian Machi (left) and Cynthia Calvillo, who is earning her master’s degree, participated in the exercise simulating the lives of patients experiencing poverty.
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Disappointment and frustration are emotions many of the nursing students experienced during the poverty simulation. Fourth-year nursing student Brian Machi (left) and Cynthia Calvillo, who is earning her master’s degree, participated in the exercise simulating the lives of patients experiencing poverty.clear graphic

 

Adapting treatment to limitations
Michelle Beninato, a graduate nursing student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program, said the experience gave her a realistic look at her patients’ lives. As a family nurse practitioner, Beninato said the simulation will make her more sensitive to and aware of her patients’ financial situations.

“Before prescribing drugs, I will ask them what their budget is for medications. Once I understand what they can afford, we can figure out a treatment plan that will work for them,” she said.


Forming new beliefs about poverty
Marion Donohoe, D.N.P., APRN, CPNP-BC, simulation facilitator and an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Systems, said each group that participates in the poverty simulation has its own culture.

“This graduate student population acted and reacted differently from the undergraduate populations. During debriefing time following the simulation, these students expressed their beliefs and disbeliefs of poverty,” she said. “Knowing the challenges patients face day to day gives a whole new meaning to making lives better.”

Other facilitators of the simulation were Martha Martinez, M.S.N., RN, clinical assistant professor, and Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor, from the Department of Family and Community Health Systems. Teri Boese, M.S.N., RN, director of the Center for Simulation Innovation, also participated in the exercise.


 
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