Originally posted on November 30, 2012 on the UAB News blog
Faculty and students from the UAB School of Nursing have worked with six community outreach groups this week administering flu shots, checking basic vital signs, giving health education information and passing out personal hygiene products and items to help combat colder weather for Birmingham’s homeless and others in need.
These Community Health Service Days were a culminating clinical activity for students in Community and Public Health Nursing, a service-learning course taken by all students in the BSN program. Faculty and students from the school’s Department of Community Health, Outcomes and Systems used these two days as an opportunity to give back to those in need during the holiday season – not only to make the season a little brighter, but also to positively impact their health beyond this time of giving.
The faculty and students have worked across Birmingham this week at seven sites that serve many of the area’s vulnerable population including Three Hots and a Cot, homes for veterans who were homeless or living on the streets, and Pathway and First Light Shelters for women and children. Services were also provided at the Church of the Reconciler near UAB, Urban Ministry in West End, Grace Episcopal in Woodlawn and Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in north Birmingham, all of which provide day programs for homeless and other very needy populations.
“When we first partnered in 2008 with agencies that serve the homeless, we were concerned with how our students would respond,” said Jennan Phillips, D.S.N., R.N., assistant professor of nursing. “Many were afraid initially and admitted having negative preconceptionsabout people who are homeless. But, students quickly realized the value in providing nursing care to this very vulnerable population. Our primary focus has been to improve health literacy and help the sick access health care. Over time, we’ve developed trusting relationships with many of these vulnerable persons and our community partners who serve them. This type clinical activity helps our students see the importance of prevention and demonstrates to the community that nurses at UAB care.”
In addition to the items provided by the UAB School of Nursing for this event, a number of community and corporate partners also assisted. These include the UAB School of Dentistry, Birmingham Health Care, BD Medical Supplies, Walgreens, Jefferson County Health Department and Alabama Department of Public Health.
Phillips said that throughout the year, UAB School of Nursing faculty and students rotate through these community partners providing additional help for the homeless and very low resource populations. Students conduct health education programs at these sites each semester with the goal of increasing health literacy about common public health concerns that include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B & C, syphilis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. In addition, they work to educate patrons on the prevention and management of leading causes of death such as heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes and asthma.
“For some, it is the only health care they receive,” Phillips said.