Nursing students learn at shelter, rescue mission
A man close to 60 years old enters the Baker University School of Nursing clinic at the Lawrence Community Shelter sharing his history of high blood pressure and complaining of blurred vision. He informs assistant professor Susan Ludwick and fourth-level student Lauren Cox that he recently suffered a mild heart attack.
Ludwick promptly asks, “Have you seen a doctor?” He responds, “No, I haven’t because I don’t know how I am going to pay for it.”
Such interaction is common for Ludwick, whose expertise is in community health. Every other Tuesday at the shelter Ludwick and Baker nursing students educate the homeless and those at risk of being homeless at Douglas County’s only emergency shelter. They provide basic health assessments and make sure the residents are properly taking their medicines, partnering with a social worker to gather information.
Sally Bartlett, a case manager at the shelter, is appreciative of the work Baker’s professor and nursing students provide.
“We think of Baker as our nurses,” Bartlett said. “We really like the services they provide because of the medical attention they give and educating the residents to take better care of themselves.”
As part of the school’s change project, the nursing students created a medicine cabinet to better organize the medication. The shelter previously kept the items in drawers and boxes.
Through her community health classes, Ludwick trains the nursing students to communicate with a diverse group.
“We prepare them to work with different socioeconomic populations,” Ludwick said.
Cox worked in mid-February at the clinic for the first time. She recorded weight and checked blood pressure.
“I enjoy working with people with different backgrounds,” said Cox, who is interested in pediatrics. “It’s a lot different than school where you see the same people. Your eyes are opened at the community shelter.”
In Topeka, School of Nursing instructor Marlene Eicher and Baker students in their final semester provide similar assistance every Wednesday at the Topeka Rescue Mission. The shelter annually houses nearly 2,000 people and serves 200,000 meals. Other services include a clothing bank, Christian guidance, recovery programs and work training programs.
“I really believe that we make a difference by providing nonjudgmental, culture-sensitive nursing care, health-care services, and patient education for the ‘guests’ at TRM,” Eicher said. “It is a privilege to share the experience with fourth-level nursing students.”
Eicher and the nursing students usually provide health services for a dozen patients a week.
“They use many of their first- and second-level skills such as focused assessments learned during health assessment lab, paper chart documentation, and over-the-counter medications to treat mild illnesses,” Eicher said. “They are eager to participate, and often quite surprised how much they know and remember. The majority of the students report the autonomy of the experience provides an excellent clinical experience.”
Recent change projects at the Topeka Rescue Mission include influenza awareness posters, administered donated flu vaccines, research protocols for nurse clinics and medication administration guidelines, and patient-teaching handouts of at-home supportive care for minor illnesses.