Nursing Students Providing Critical Health Care Services to Underserved Communities

CAMDEN —Hospitals are increasingly facing cuts in funding for charity care, leaving a void in adequate health care for underserved communities in the United States.

As a result, more nurses will be required to meet the increasing health care demands of under insured and uninsured individuals.

Having access to health care services and receiving culturally appropriate health promotion education are two issues of vital importance to the people of underserved communities. Students from the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden are doing their part to reach out to that population and lead efforts to help under and uninsured individuals obtain the care they need.

 “Our students are taught to reflect on the needs of the community,” says Patricia Suplee, an assistant professor of nursing at Rutgers–Camden. “Teaching students about the importance of public health and the role of the nurse in community settings is vital because we are going to see fewer patients in hospitals, forcing nurses to focus more on community-based programs.”

Rutgers–Camden has started civic engagement programs that allow its nursing students the opportunity to provide health care to members of the Camden community.

“We teach our students to be aware of the continuum of nursing care and to broaden their view that nursing is not limited to the hospital setting,” says Bonnie Jerome-D’Emilia, an assistant professor of nursing. “In fact, in a community like Camden, with a large uninsured population, more preventive services are needed.”

Suplee says health fairs held at local churches are an effective method of bringing preventive care services and education to the community. Last year, Rutgers–Camden nursing students participated in a health fair focusing on women’s health needs at St. Anthony of Padua Church in the Cramer Hill section of Camden.

The students provided flu shots, took blood pressure, and gave presentations to raise awareness about cervical cancer and HPV screening, diabetes, menopause, ovarian and uterine cancer, sexually transmitted infections, and information about how to access health care.

“These civic engagement experiences are fulfilling,” says Bonvincent Hernandez, a senior nursing major from Lindenwold. “They are significant programs because they encourage students to go above and beyond their classroom work and serve as teachers to members of the community who are seeking information about healthcare while reinforcing clinical skills.”

This year, the students will plan and participate in a fair to be held at the Kaighn Avenue Baptist Church in the Bergen Square neighborhood of Camden on Dec. 8.

“By providing this service my fellow students and I, are able to utilize our newly-found skills and apply them to a population that severely needs them,” says Christopher Taylor, a senior nursing major from Philadelphia.   

By planning and participating in community outreach, Rutgers–Camden nursing students are learning how to reach out to people in neighborhoods to provide culturally sensitive care and also become better equipped to care for diverse populations after graduation.

 “Many of our students are entering our pre-liscensure nursing program knowing they will continue their education to the masters or doctorate level which will enable them to practice as primary care providers,” Suplee says. “Our new curriculum will prepare well-educated nurses who will have a greater understanding of rapidly changing health care environments. Our graduates are going to be the next nursing leaders who will tackle the health-related challenges of the 21st century.”

For more information about Rutgers–Camden news stories, visit us at news.camden.rutgers.edu

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