In November, UNC Greensboro School of Nursing seniors took part in a simulation designed to test their ability to interact with homeless patients.
Clinical Assistant Professor Crystal Lamb and Clinical Instructor Sandra Blaha facilitated the simulation.
They designed a setting for the students and the actors portraying the homeless patients in an area outside the Moore Nursing Building. Two School of Nursing staff members – Philip Simpson, director of student affairs, and Elizabeth Carlin, clinical placement coordinator – were among the actors who portrayed homeless individuals in need of medical attention.
The students performed typical actions they would perform during a home visit, taking vital signs and performing a head-to-toe assessment of each patient. They later saw each patient in a hospital setting, as might be typical in a real scenario.
Lamb said the students were led to consider resources that would allow homeless patients to receive follow-up treatment in hospital setting, and locating local resources was one of the specific challenges they faced in using their skills in a real situation.
“We really try to be concrete and practical in our debriefings concerning resources,” said Lamb. “We talk about organizations that assist homelessness and vulnerable populations.”
Lamb said that safety – physical safety and information safety – were new things to consider in an outdoor environment.
“One big change for the students was performing the tasks in a different environment,” she said. “The students usually equate nursing to the hospital, but through the simulation they realize that they are nurses anywhere.”
Lamb says this particular simulation benefits those interested in working with the Health Department or Home Health Agencies, but also those who will go to a hospital setting.
“They have to think about discharge and where is that patient going? It was another enlightening moment,” she said. “Patients don’t live at a hospital; they live in a community.”
Lamb is a former congregational nurse and says there’s a lot of opportunity in the local community and a lot of resources in place.
“There are ways to help individuals who are struggling with homelessness or other conditions. I think we’re doing a good job. Could we do better? Absolutely. Our hope is that by our students going through this scenario, they become more aware. As healthcare providers we have to be aware of our community and those we serve.”
By Susan Kirby-Smith