Feb 17, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Laura Larsson
By Laura Larsson, PhD, MPH, RN, is an assistant professor at the College of Nursing, Montana State University and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar (2010 – 2013)
What started as a place for nursing students to earn supplemental clinical hours toward their public health course has evolved into a wonderful community-academic partnership that has just celebrated its 5th anniversary.
As a nurse educator, my first thought when I decided to offer students the chance to gain extra hours at the food bank was how beneficial such a partnership would be for my students. They would get to work with families experiencing food scarcity, see a wider variety of community members than they did in the hospital setting, and gain first-hand experience with where the strengths and weaknesses are in the “safety net.”
I imagined projects where concepts from the community would converge with concepts from individual-level care, and the students would better understand that nursing cannot operate in a silo.
In the past five years, this project has been all of that and even more.
During the spring of 2008, two students started the Nurse’s Desk at our local food bank in Bozeman, Mont., holding hours every Friday afternoon. Sponsored by the local federally qualified health center, they offered blood pressure and casual blood glucose testing, and referral services to clients as they waited for their supply of food.
Throughout that spring, the students grew markedly in their appreciation for the diverse and challenging circumstances their clients faced. They did perform blood pressure and blood glucose checks, but mostly they listened. They heard stories that strained their catalogue of experience and met people whose willpower and resilience humbled them. The clients, the volunteers, and the students insisted the Nurse’s Desk continue.