Their topics were “Developing Cultural Competency Through Service Learning in a Baccalaureate Nursing Program,” “Developing Cultural Competency through Clinical Simulation in a Senior Level Baccalaureate Community Health Course” and “Assessing Student Attitudes Towards Poverty Using the Atherton Poverty Scale.”
“Nursing, by definition is about serving others,” Simmons said. “Thus nursing professionals need to understand the culture of poverty in order to assist those experiencing its devastation. Initially students may view nursing through a very narrow lens – hospitals, scrubs, IVs, medications, call bells and monitors beeping. However, understanding that much of what nurses do will be community-based broadens their perspective.”
Simmons said poverty is a condition many experience in varying degrees throughout the world and is usually associated with poor health outcomes and lack of access to appropriate healthcare.
“In the United States alone, there were an estimated 42.6 million people or 15.1 percent living in poverty in 2010 – the highest number since the U.S. starting counting, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Thus it is imperative that students understanding the burden of population health on the community and be responsive by working to address those health needs in an effort to improve the quality of life for the people who live in their communities,” Wissing said.
At the symposium Wissing, Arterberry and Simmons discussed Northwestern State’s approach to helping students understand and respect the burdensome impact living in poverty has on persons and their health care decisions. Objectives were, first, to describe community-based service learning projects that improve nursing students’ cultural competency across the lifespan in underserved populations and, second, to identify differences in student attitudes toward poverty after participating in a traditional teaching methodology versus a less traditional method.
Last fall, faculty in Northwestern State’s College of Nursing and Allied Health initiated a Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) for undergraduate students to prepare them for professional interaction with impoverished patients. The CAPS program enabled students to learn about the difficulties encountered by people in poverty who struggle to pay for expensive medications or treatments when few students have personal knowledge of those difficulties, Wissing said. CAPS highlight population-based care specific to the poor and enlightened students about the impact of poverty on health.
“We want to produce a student that is more attuned to the difficulties of the poor in our community,” Wissing said. “This can create attitude change at the point of service, increase volunteerism and promote community activism as well as tolerance in our student body.”
“Some question whether the simulation of poverty is necessary when there is so much of it around us,” Arterberry said. “This simulation allowed students to exchange places with poor people and experience poverty from a different perspective. This was the richness of the experience. The research congress gave us a forum to share what we learned.”