A Healthcare Referral System for the Homeless

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 11:25 AM

Beth Norton, RN, DNP
RN to BSN Program, Northwest Florida State College, Niceville, FL

Learning Objective 1: describe an evidence-based process for non-medical staff of homeless shelters to use for client referral to receive appropriate healthcare.

Learning Objective 2: explain how use of the system encourages clients, who have not previously focused on healthy behaviors, to do so.

The problem that was grappled with was the lack of attention to the health of homeless individuals who took up residence at a local shelter.  The purpose of the project was to initiate a significant and sustainable change that resulted in the provision of healthcare for the homeless.  The project was evidence-based and completed by a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student. A total of six protocols were developed that addressed the following needs: Acute Medical, Chronic Medical, Urgent Mental Health, Chronic Mental Health, Dental Issues, and Colds-Flu-Earache. Clients residing at the shelter were encouraged to self-identify their current healthcare issues upon admission to the shelter.  The shelter administration and staff reviewed the healthcare conditions that were disclosed by their clients and the staff followed the evidence-based protocols for healthcare referral. The protocols are written using easy to understand and non-medical language. Particularly useful was the Colds-Flu-Earache protocol due to the H1N1 pandemic.  Protocols are currently in use and have resulted in referrals that are appropriate in regard to the urgent nature and severity of the healthcare problem that was experienced. Shelter staff persons have indicated they find the protocols to be a helpful resource because they are better able to address the healthcare needs of their clients in an efficient and effective manner.  The protocols are simple to adapt for use by any homeless shelter through-out the world and for existing shelter staff to use without extensive training or medical education.