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Faculty looking at ‘in the streets’ community nursing experiences


From coordinating cars at drive-through vaccination clinics to being a volunteer at health fairs, part of the mission of the Michigan State University College of Nursing is improving health outcomes in communities.

For some Spartan Nurses, that means community nursing. Dean Randolph F.R. Rasch said nurses need to meet their patients where they are.

“It is no longer sufficient for us to rely on practicing exclusively in hospitals and clinics, rather, we need to look to community centers, churches, health fairs and other ‘in the streets’-type settings to ensure those who need the care most, receive it,” he said.

Rhonda Conner-Warren, a pediatric nurse practitioner and assistant professor in the college, said having nursing students involved in community efforts at the start of their career is paramount. She led the college’s efforts to provide volunteer opportunities for students at Sparrow’s COVID-19 vaccine drive-through lab at Frandor in Lansing, Mich. and at the MSU Pavilion on the southern edge of campus.

“Early life experiences travel with you,” she said. “Students needed to experience how to coordinate mass activity to do the most good.”

While volunteering at the vaccine rollout clinics, students had the opportunity to work with various age groups, people across different cultural backgrounds with language barriers and with security during medical emergencies. Overall, they experienced what it meant to be part of something so momentous.

“We understood the ‘thank you,’ but didn’t think we were doing any more than we were supposed to do,” Conner- Warren said.

As part of her summer 2021 NUR 333: Health Promotions course, Conner-Warren invited students to participate in a health fair through the Detroit Medical Center. A crucial part of community nursing is understanding social determinants of health and working to reach people from different cultures, of various religions and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Biases have occurred over the years in health care ... we’re bringing history to the table so students can understand issues we have and how we’re working to get better,” Conner-Warren said.

Similar to the health fair through the Detroit Medical Center, Grace Emmanuel Church in Flint, Mich. has hosted health fairs with a food giveaway for its congregation and members of the community. At previous fairs, anywhere from five to 10 medical vendors would offer services such as blood pressure and kidney checks, while hundreds of families received food. Among those vendors was Dr. Patrick Hawkins, an assistant professor in the college.

Hawkins, also an MSU College of Nursing alumnus, has worked in Flint for more than 20 years and is a nurse practitioner who specializes in nephrology.

“We have a duty to serve our citizens and I’m honored to live my dream every day,” Hawkins said.

Glenna Gates, a director at the Flint church, said Hawkins has been a crucial part of the church’s annual health fair and food giveaway. Although scaled back to a drivethrough food giveaway due to the pandemic, she said more than 200 families have been helped.

“Our church is known to be a community church and (Hawkins) is a strong supporter,” Gates said. “He will do what he can to help the church and if he doesn’t know the answer, he will find it out.”

Navigating health care can be difficult, and Hawkins said it’s key to educate community members and patients on “the why behind the how.”

“It takes teamwork and a collaboration of all the team members to elevate the level of care being provided,” Hawkins said. “When patients trust you enough to tell you their challenges, you can better utilize all resources.”