Bridging The Gap

For many nursing students, their future profession is defined by long hours in a hospital and providing incredibly important medical care. However, there is a whole other side to the job according to Rutgers Camden Community Health Nursing professor, Kerrie Kelly.

“Nurses need to be the ones that bridge the gap between medical care and social work,” she says. “For example, when a woman in need comes to the hospital to have a baby, the other things she is dealing with don’t just disappear. It is important that nurses are familiar with resources to help them as much as possible.”

That knowledge is the goal of a new partnership between VOADV’s Anna Sample Complex and Rutgers Camden Nursing. Students complete clinical hours by spending time at the shelter, and clients are given a valuable resource in health and medical care.

“After connecting with the team at Rutgers Nursing’s Center for Academic Resources, Engagement, and Services, we all were ecstatic about this opportunity. This experience is giving homeless services and the shelter the opportunity to continue to bridge the gap between social services and the medical field,” said Monique Reddick, VOADV Regional Director of Homeless Services. “Our ultimate goal is to expand within the shelter system to offer more services as it relates to medical and clinical services onsite.”

In their first week at Anna Sample, the nursing students visited around dinner and spent time in the kitchen area – available for clients to talk to but not structured or required. They brought along some snacks for the kids and before long, conversation was flowing. Based on this initial meeting, each student chose a “need” that they thought was common with the shelter residents.

Over the weeks that they will spend going to Anna Sample, the nursing students will be researching issues like getting an ID, transportation, afterschool programs for kids, mental health services and more. By the end of their class, they will have compiled everything into a resource document that will be available for residents to use along with VOADV’s own services and case management.

While the nursing students and their professor can provide actual medical care if necessary, the most important part of their visits are the conversation and knowledge shared.

“I really look forward to talking to the Anna Sample residents every week,” one student said. “I’ve definitely learned things from them, and it is really rewarding to hear that what I’ve learned in school is helping them as well. We talked to one client who needed help getting medication and being able to assist with that was so gratifying.”

“We are already seeing how beneficial this new partnership is to our clients,” said Ms. Reddick. “So much so, that we are now organizing having the nurses visit our permanent supportive housing programs as well.”

Rutgers Camden and VOADV’s new partnership is beneficial for both the clients and the students. While Anna Sample residents are receiving crucial information, the students are gaining knowledge to take with them to their future career in a hospital or other medical care setting. After taking Community Health Nursing, these students will be prepared with resources and experience needed to do their part in bridging the gap between social work and medical care.

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