Service learning project becomes nurse-run clinic serving homeless youth

Service learning project becomes nurse-run clinic serving homeless youth

Nursing school is more than just learning clinical and bedside care, it also includes essential relationship- and empathy-building skills. Service learning plays a vital part in nursing education.

Three Doctor of Nursing Practice students –  Jennifer Bryson and Lauren Rotkis, who are both in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner track and Lauren Berglind who is in the Family Nurse Practitioner track, thought they would have a one-time visit for a service learning project for Seattle’s Capitol Hill Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) homeless shelter. Instead, that experience turned into a longer term Doctor of Nursing Practice project to implement a more sustainable nurse-run clinic.

L to R – Jennifer Bryson, Lauren Rotkis, Lauren Berglind

“PSKS works to break barriers and establish a trust between their participants and volunteer nurses,” said Rotkis,  “Many young people getting support from PSKS are unaware of the health resources available to them and tend to distrust healthcare workers and therefore reluctant to seek care.”

Since many of the young people who utilize the shelter are transient, they do not know the resources available to them.

“We want to help these patients seek additional care, talk about their health issues and let them know that health is a priority,” said Berglind.

The students have received strong support and assistance from the school’s faculty, including Dr. Wendy Barrington, UW assistant professor of nursing and epidemiology. She teaches NSG 552: Social Determinants of Health and Health where service-learning is an integral part of the class.

“I am so impressed with their advocacy, diligence and passion for turning a service-learning class assignment into a productive and sustaining engagement,” she said. “Service-learning is a transformative way for nursing students to step outside of asymmetric power structures in healthcare to partner with people in their wellness.”

“Going beyond the bedside into communities allow nurses to not only ‘burst the bubbles” of their own experience, but the context of the traditional nursing role as well,” Barrington said.

Other DNP students working to start the clinic include Shelley Brandstetter, Alexandra Rubel and Jane Kim. As they continue growing the clinic, they hope to recruit UW School of Nursing BSN students as volunteers. In addition, they are hoping to use PSKS as a permanent service-learning placement as part of NSG 552 to also sustainably infuse the clinic with new DNP volunteers.