Two groups of students who graduated from Kalamazoo Valley’s nursing program in April received the Sisters of St. Joseph Group Volunteers of Excellence Award from Ministry with Community for serving as volunteers with the organization. They accepted the award during Ministry with Community’s annual open house on June 26.
Every Thursday for 12 weeks, Kalamazoo Valley’s fourth semester nursing students participated in a community rotation. Two groups were assigned to work in downtown Kalamazoo at Ministry with Community, a daytime shelter and food center for those struggling with homelessness, poverty and other challenges.
“They provided health services such as foot care, blood pressure screening, stroke risk screening-hypo and hyperthermia education for the season, diabetes management, exercise, nutrition and stress management. They also served meals and presented information on health topics to a women's group,” explained nursing faculty member Sarah Pernie. “I set the program up working with a social worker at Ministry with Community, hoping we could expose our students to the homeless population and help provide services that their members needed."
Kalamazoo Valley nursing instructor Judy Cronin accompanied the students to the center and supervised their interactions. “I believe that at Ministry with Community, our nursing students experienced the diversity that is within our own community,” Cronin said.
“Understanding the unique needs of the people that come to us for healthcare is essential to providing effective treatment. Students were also able to develop their patient teaching skills and increase their knowledge of community resources. Many have expressed their desire to continue with service learning after graduation.”
Cronin said the members of Ministry with Community benefited from individualized teaching in a familiar environment. “Students had time to meet one-on-one and explain lab results, discharge instructions and diagnosis that were unclear,” Cronin said. “Together they planned realistic health management strategies that fit the lifestyle constraints of the members. Group teaching on various health topics was also presented through interactive games that kept it fun.”
The students brainstormed with Ministry with Community’s Program Director, Christine Wine, to come up with areas where they could fill gaps in healthcare for Ministry with Community members. “Having them here really benefited our members, helped reduce the stigma about members in our community, and made the students advocates for what we do,” Wine said. Kim Ford was one of the students who volunteered at Ministry with Community. “It was a great experience,” she said. “We were the lucky ones. We did a lot of teaching about health care issues and it was nice to be able to give back to the community. It felt great to be able to walk through the door and have the members recognize us. They really appreciated what we were doing.”
Ford said she was “pleased beyond belief” to receive the award. “What we did was so simple and so small, but it must have made a big difference. We were thrilled to receive the award,” she said.