TU nursing students provide health education and services to Baltimore homeless mission
For seven seniors in Mary Lashley’s Community Health Nursing course, aiding the Helping Up Mission's homeless residents is an introduction to community-based nursing.
A non-denominational, faith-based institution, the Helping Up Mission is dedicated to serving the city’s poor and homeless with counseling, medical and legal services, job training and placement, emergency shelter and substance addiction recovery programs.
This spring Lashley and her nursing students provided mission residents with continual health care and held a health fair. TU’s nursing program has partnered with the mission on previous occasions; in fall 2004, Lashley and her students provided residents with tuberculosis screening.
“This course provides many of our nursing students with their first therapeutic relationship with Baltimore’s ethnically and racially diverse population,” Lashley says. “It’s important that students become more sensitive to our poor and homeless. We're seeking to shatter stereotypes they may have about those groups.”
Over the course of their final term at TU, Lashley’s students were assigned mission residents to follow and visit on a regular basis. “We selected residents with complex chronic health needs who could benefit from one-on-one teaching, counseling and assessment through a nurse visit,” explains Lashley. “Clients may have severe hypertension, diabetes, psychiatric issues, or they may be on multiple medications. The nursing students conducted thorough health histories and basic screening assessments to identify and prioritize health issues, and then developed plans of care addressing each patient’s needs.”
For the health fair, Amanda Grace ’06 (pictured), Lindsey Hannigan ’06 and five of their classmates set up three stations with exhibits on basic hygiene, nutrition and stress management. Nursing students provided mission residents with blood pressure screening at a fourth station.
“Through this course I’ve gained my first work experience with Baltimore’s homeless community,” says Grace. “Some of us have bonded with members of the Spiritual Recovery Program and now we’re finding it difficult to terminate the nurse-patient relationship.
“My experiences with the mission have motivated me to volunteer my services as a registered nurse to groups in need after I graduate from Towson.”
Lashley's students conducted what is known as faith-community nursing, a sub-specialty of public health nursing. “In class we talked about the spiritual side of health—how faith can sustain persons through the crisis experiences of their lives," says Lashley.
“For people dealing with constant and severe crisis, faith is often the greatest source of hope.”
Story by Stuart Zang/Photos of Hannigan and Grace by Kanji Takeno
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