Leading, Learning, Serving: A Nursing Faculty Initiative to Reduce Health Disparities among a Homeless Shelter Population

Saturday, 16 November 2013: 3:35 PM

Kimberly S. Penland, PhD, FNP-BC1
Meg E. Wilson, PhD, RN, APHN-BC, CNE2
Teresa M. Roberts, MSN, RN1
Cheryl L. Erickson, MA, FNP-BC, CNE1
(1)Department of Nursing, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN
(2)Fort Wayne Medical Education Program, Fort Wayne, IN

Learning Objective 1: Describe the process of developing and managing a nurse practitioner managed clinic in a homeless shelter for women and children.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss strategies and opportunities for advanced practice nurses, faculty, and students for practice and service in a homeless shelter for women and children.

Homeless women and children often lack access to basic health care and may delay seeking medical treatment until symptoms are severe. Many barriers to healthcare exist, such as lack of trust of healthcare providers, high costs, transportation, uncertainty of where to go for treatment, lack of child care, and long waiting times. These barriers may lead to marginalization resulting in health disparities (Wilson, 2005).  

To address this vulnerable population at a local level, nursing faculty at a university partnered with a homeless shelter and community agencies to develop a nurse practitioner managed, free clinic located in the shelter. The clinic is not intended to be the medical home for residents, but provides a safety net until they are able to establish consistent medical care.  Admission physicals, infectious disease screenings, and chronic and acute care needs are addressed.  Health care education and illness prevention is a priority, as well as linking residents to appropriate community resources and helping them find a medical home. Since the clinic is located inside the shelter, many barriers such as transportation, lack of childcare, cost, and long waiting periods to access healthcare are eliminated.  Education regarding appropriate use of ER services and access to healthcare in the clinic likely reduces many unnecessary ER visits.

This innovative partnership provides leadership and mentorship opportunities for advanced practice nurses as they direct ongoing development and management of the clinic.  The clinic enables faculty, students and alumni to deliver patient-centered care and establish a commitment for continued service to an underserved population.