StudentSpeak is pleased to offer this guest post from Randi Powell. Randi graduated from SOU with a degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Studies in 2011. Her passion for working with marginalized populations grew from spending several years living and traveling abroad in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Sierra Leone. She is a proud student in the OHSU Nursing Class of 2015 and member of Nursing Students Without Borders.
Volunteering to work with marginalized populations has shaped my view of health care into a more holistic approach. After working alongside underserved populations, I am more aware of the barriers to obtaining healthcare and the obstacles to living a healthy lifestyle. Conducting community outreach has illuminated the fact that a person’s health is closely tied with their employment status, level of education, access to shelter and transportation and availability of healthy food. Having shelter and a warm jacket are just as important to a person’s health as diet and exercise.
Nursing Students Without Borders (NSWB) is a student run organization that offers nursing students the chance to support underserved communities, both locally and globally. The organization provides students opportunities to alleviate health disparities in their own community while also expanding their global perspective of health care. Volunteer opportunities include conducting community outreach, health screenings, and education to reach populations who might otherwise not have access to healthcare. Nursing students check blood pressure and BMIs for the migrant population, offer diabetes education at the local powwows, serve meals at the Emergency Food Bank, organize coat drives in the winter, establish LGBT health screenings, raise money for Ebola victims in Sierra Leone, advocate for the homeless community and much more.
Working with NSWB has shaped my future nursing career because I will approach patients with a more comprehensive view of health to include all aspects of a person’s life. For example, I met a homeless schizophrenic adult who, on a monthly basis, would be admitted into the Behavioral Health Unit because he quit taking his Seroquel. As a healthcare professional I was eager to discuss how regularly taking his medication could improve his life. I quickly learned, however, that all he could concentrate on was where he would sleep that evening and where he would get his next meal. Until his basic needs were met he would be uninterested and unable to discuss the importance of adhering to his medication regimen.
NSWB has helped me to work across the borders in my own community and to become aware of the social justice issues surrounding health. I am more aware of the poor social determinants of health that exist in my own community and how these are powerful indicators of a person’s quality and quantity of life. Volunteering with this organization has made me more passionate to work in the field of community health and to reach out to those who do not have access to healthcare. Most importantly, NSWB has expanded my perspective as a nursing student and has made me a more culturally competent, empathetic and passionate community member.