Today Magazine Winter 2020 - Page 7

Professor Patricia Brown O’Hara, RN, PhD runs through the simulation at the start of the event. Nursing, Social Work Students Participate in Poverty Simulations By: Deb O'Reilly “That was humbling,” said a nursing student after participating in one of two poverty simulations held on GMercyU’s campus in December 2019. Nursing students read the profiles of the citizens who they will portray. Students line up for services during the simulation. The Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions hosted two poverty simulations as part of an annual mission-focused effort. One of the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy is to advocate for the poverty stricken; these simulations help students understand how to better care for some of society’s most vulnerable populations. Seniors in GMercyU’s “Health and Illness in the Community” course participated, as well as a group of GMercyU Social Work students. These experiential learning events were designed to offer students a glimpse of what life is like for their future patients and clients living at the poverty level – something that’s difficult to understand if you haven’t lived it. “Chances are you will likely interact with people who you don’t even realize are poverty stricken,” said Heather Moulton of the Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard, one of the guest speakers. The simulations were co-run by Professors Teresa Lewis, RN, DNP and Patricia Brown O’Hara, RN, PhD, and staffed with a team of faculty volunteers. A stop to visit Social Services. Each simulation was organized in four, 15-minute time periods, with each 15-minute period representing one week, for a total of one month in the life of a low-income community member. Each student was assigned a profile of a community member – the profiles shared where they lived (some were homeless), marital status, if they had children, if and where they worked, and their income and budget. Students were also given specific goals: to keep their homes secure, go to work, Waiting to inquire about employment. buy the required amount of food each week, keep their utilities on, make their loan payments, pay for clothing and miscellaneous expenses, respond appropriately to unexpected factors in life, and keep school-aged children in school. With their goals in mind, students navigated GMercyU’s Rotelle Lounge “neighborhood,” visiting a simulated supermarket, social services center, a daycare, the bank, a healthcare center, a pawn shop, and juvenile hall. They began to learn what it means to have your utilities shut off or get evicted because you can’t pay your bills or rent, how to feed a family on minimum wage, and how to juggle parenting your kids when you’re working multiple jobs. “What could be harder than this?” said Social Work Program Director Wade Luquet, PhD, of the challenges that people at or below the poverty line face every day.  One of the simulation’s faculty volunteers, Dr. Luquet played the role of a thief who wandered the room during the event and occasionally seized what little money students had, to illustrate the stressful safety issues some deal with on top of financial hardships.  Afterward, students and faculty volunteers gathered to share their eye-opening experiences. “I had anxiety,” said one student who had difficulty covering her expenses. “It was frustrating,” said another of the challenge of having a co-parent in jail.  What they took away is a better sense of the obstacles our vulnerable populations face on a daily basis. “Our intention is to provide our students an opportunity to be better and more understanding advocates for their future clients,” said Professor Lewis. TODAY 5