Nursing students take hands-on approach to service learning
Hands are cleansed gently, as if in a ritual of healing. Names are exchanged, stories are shared, and common ground is discovered. As the graduate students from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing participate in the hand-care clinic at the 24-7 Gateway Homeless Services Shelter in downtown Atlanta, they gain a true sense of what nursing can mean—care, solace, and hope.
“We wear our uniforms on purpose, and it is the bright spot of their day,” says nursing instructor Monica Donohue, who supervises a five-week clinical rotation of community health nursing students. “They say, ‘The nurses are here today!’ ”
For years, nursing faculty and students have worked in shelters and through community agencies as part of the school’s mission of social responsibility and service learning. A formal partnership with the 24-7 shelter near Grady Memorial Hospital means that nursing students help provide care to the 270 men and thirty women and children who reside there, as well as the two to three hundred clients who pass through each day.
“It’s eye-opening,” says Samantha Steiner 07N. “Some people simply don’t have support systems, and one event can cause them to spiral down. It means a lot to them to simply have someone acknowledge them and how they are feeling.”
Danielle Lowery 07N says “the experience has challenged my ideas about the homeless. You pass them on the streets and don’t think twice. But when you put a name, face, and story with the person, it puts a whole different perspective on it. They could be anyone. They could be you.”
Donohue helped to conceive of projects the nursing students could provide to the shelter, such as the Heart, Hands, and Hope intervention.
This project focused on heart health, and students worked with clients
on healthy habits, reduction of stress
(using hand massages and aromatherapy),
and oral hygiene. They even provided samples of heart-healthy dark chocolate.
Each client also had their blood pressure checked and received written feedback about their individual results and an overview of what the numbers mean.
Demetta Payne 07N got to know one of the clients during the screening—a construction worker who came to Atlanta to work on a job that never materialized and who wanted to get back to his family in Arkansas.
“He asked to come to my nursing graduation,” Payne says. “I was shocked but happy. To me, it meant that he respected my position.”—M.J.L.