- BC Games
VIU students warm up to Warmland health model
A group of five Vancouver Island University nursing students working to reduce the stigma that homeless people encounter.
And as part of that work, they’ve been learning more about how the role of a nurse practitioner can impact the health of the homeless.
Josh Mabey, Marnie Squires, Sophie Minette-Crow, Mark Mohun-Smith and Jennifer Etty are in their final year of VIU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. They chose Warmland House in Duncan as the site of their fourth-year community practice placement and research project.
Etty suggested working with Warmland House to the students, who all liked the idea of giving back to their home community through working with the clients and staff at the homeless shelter and transition house facility.
With the help of their professor, Lori Evans, they were able to secure the placement.
“It was a way of giving back to the Cowichan Valley,” explained Mabey. “We were there observing, listening, building relationships.
“All our group is passionate about marginalized people in society, in particular homeless people. Our goal in giving back was to gain an understanding of homelessness, gain empathy toward the homeless and combat that stigma of the homeless person.”
The students dedicated time between January and April 2013 in work experience with clients and staff at Warmland House. They observed how the range of services provided under one roof impacts the homeless adults who have found their way there.
In particular, the students became interested in learning more about how the nurse practitioner role interacts with clients at Warmland, along with other in-house services in place to help homeless people at the facility.
“Warmland offers a lot of different programs under one roof,” said Mabey. “They meet their basic needs of shelter, safety, food, clothing, but they also have a kitchen, a foot care clinic, and a nurse practitioner working there twice a week. That’s the role we’re interested in looking at in the research.”
Mabey says the group doesn’t believe there is another nurse practitioner working out of a homeless shelter.
“It creates access to care because a lot of clients don’t have access to a doctor,” he said. “It meets a lot of (the clients’) basic needs, but what we saw there that was unique was a sense of community.”
The five students have developed a research proposal that seeks to investigate how the nurse practitioner works with the homeless within the larger therapeutic community at Warmland. This will provide a starting point for a comparison of how this health care role functions in similar settings within the region.
Mabey says the project has been very interesting, and they’ve learned a lot.
“I’ve always pictured the panhandler on the side of the street, but of course that’s not the case — that’s only one type; there are lots of unseen types of homelessness, people who couch-surf or lose their house and have to move in with a friend or relative,” he said. “There are so many of us who are at risk of homelessness. It was interesting to learn the clients’ experiences and their life stories at Warmland.”
Mabey, who used to work at the mill in Crofton before going to school at VIU, says he went into nursing because he is a people person and he likes helping.
“My dad was from a mental health caring background, and I kind of see myself going that way as well,” he said. “I’m passionate about caring for people.”