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Nursing students to provide care to the homeless in Washington, D.C.

RELEASED: March 8, 2010

UW-Eau Claire graduate nursing students with donations for homeless shelter
Nursing graduate students collected more than 120 pounds of donated items to distribute for the homeless women served by N Street Village shelter during their upcoming cultural immersion trip to Washington, D.C.
Throughout the spring 2010 semester, the nursing students continue to reflect on their experiences working with the Washington, D.C., homeless population in their blog, "Homelessness in D.C.: Nursing Perspectives."

EAU CLAIRE — Six University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduate nursing students will spend March 13-19 in Washington, D.C., providing nursing care to clients at several agencies that serve the homeless.

As part of a cultural immersion trip, the students will conduct blood pressure screenings, and provide health education on the dangers of high blood pressure and diabetes for homeless women at the N Street Village shelter. They also will volunteer at several other agencies that work with homeless people, including Unity Health Care for the Homeless, Martha's Table, Capital Area Food Bank, Thrive DC and Christ House. The nursing students also will work in small groups with ethnically diverse students from Shaw Junior High, a local public school.

In advance of their trip, the nursing students inquired about the needs of the homeless women served by N Street Village and collected more than 120 pounds of donated items to distribute at the shelter. Items such as recyclable bags, toothpaste and toothbrushes were shipped directly to the N Street Village for homeless women.

During the trip, the nurses will stay at the Steinbruck Center for Urban Studies, a guest hostel of the Luther Place Memorial Church, which started and supports the N Street Village shelter.

The trip is supported by funds raised by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board of directors to increase the number of cultural and international immersion experiences available to UW-Eau Claire students, which is a goal of the university's strategic plan.

Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhorn, a nursing professor who will accompany the students on the trip, said this will not be a typical visit to a city.

"Cultural immersions go beyond tourist travel, which generally consists of visits to monuments, museums and historic sites," Kirkhorn said. "Cultural immersion experiences provide real contact and interaction with the culture of a population. This immersion experience with the homeless will provide much-needed insight into the life ways of people outside the students' cultural comfort zone. The benefits are many, however, by my lights, the biggest is that they help students cultivate empathy."

In preparation for their immersion into the culture of poverty and homelessness, the graduate students have reviewed and discussed literature about race, poverty, mental health and other relevant topics. The students also have created a blog to record their experiences as they prepare for the trip and while they are in Washington, D.C.

Angelique Van Sistine, a nursing student who will go on the trip, wrote on the blog that this experience will introduce her to a population she doesn't know well.

"I am looking forward to taking in a city from a different perspective, as well as hopefully learning more about a population I have had little contact with up to this point," Van Sistine wrote.

To read their blog and see photos of the trip, go to the UW-Eau Claire blog.

For more information on the immersion experience, contact Dr. Lee-Ellen Kirkhorn at 715-836-5005 or at kirkholc@uwec.edu.

-30-

KH/JB

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