Some patients need more than medicine, ISU nursing grads learn

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
April 29, 2011

Kayley Bodine and Rebecca Campbell are leaving Indiana State University with more to show for their four years of college than bachelor's degrees.

During their senior year, the two nursing graduates gained firsthand understanding of the unique health care challenges facing homeless people.

Assigned a community-nursing project with the Lighthouse Mission's Conner's Center, Bodine , who is from Martinsville, Ind. and Campbell, of Whiteland, applied for and received a grant to assist the center, which serves women and children.

Both students, who will graduate May 7 during Indiana State's spring commencement ceremonies in Hulman Center, say their work with the homeless shelter was an eye-opening experience.

"In the hospital, someone comes in and two weeks later they're back with the same problem and you're like, ‘Seriously, you didn't go home and do what I told you? How come you didn't take your medicine?'" Campbell said. "But when you see the lives they live and realize that they didn't have a way to get to a pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, it really just clicks that there are so many roadblocks to wellness that we don't see outside of the hospital because we don't know the patients' stories."

To help overcome the transportation roadblock, Campbell and Bodine used a portion of the grant to purchase 150 Terre Haute city bus passes so the women would have transportation to pharmacies and clinics.

They also researched agencies that assist homeless and low-income residents. The result was a resource book detailing 50 Terre Haute area organizations ranging from Lifeline and the Council on Domestic Abuse to legal assistance agencies and senior citizen centers.

"There are so many resources available in Terre Haute but these women weren't really being made aware of those resources. Several not-for-profit organizations exist in Terre Haute for people who need help. I just felt like making them aware of these agencies could help benefit them and their health," said Bodine.

When nurses discharge patients from the hospital, they make sure to provide any needed medical information but often don't think to inquire about resources, she said.
"Now I'll be able to incorporate that and say, ‘Do you have the resources to get where you need to go?'" she said. "Many people don't feel comfortable saying, ‘I'm homeless and I don't have a place to go and I don't have resources to get my medication."

Several of the agencies listed in the resource book serve senior citizens, Campbell noted.

"Many of the women that stay at the Conner's Center are of the age that they can utilize those resources so we tried to highlight places they can get assistance in working with Medicare and Social Security checks, if they're not receiving them," Campbell said. "A lot of them had benefits they could be getting but don't know how to enroll themselves in the programs."

Beth, a Conner's Center resident for more than one year who declined to give her last name, said Campbell and Bodine "came in with their ears open. They were very capable and professional with good follow-through and they had a nice feel for some of the center's limitations."

Lack of Internet access is among those limitations, so the comprehensive printed directory of service agencies is especially helpful, Beth said.

The students were also "a great sounding board" for the center's residents, and they provided informative presentations on a variety of health-care topics, she said.

Tim Long, Conner's Center director, said the directory "is a tremendous asset. It has been a great help because we did not realize how many services are available for women and children in the community that are either low cost or free. It's a great resource to have. The students put a ton of effort into this project and we appreciate it."

To say the students made the most of the $2,000 grant would be an understatement, Long said. In addition to the bus passes and the resource guide for homeless women, Bodine and Campbell wanted to do something for children at the center.

Despite counting four children among its current total of 24 residents, a figure that sometimes swells to 45, Conner's Center lacks a playground at its North Terre Haute location. So the ISU students used a portion of the grant to purchase playground equipment for the center when it moves to a new location at the former Booker T. Washington High School on Terre Haute's south side.

"We saw that a lot of the children were sitting on the deck while their mothers were smoking and breathing in all the toxic fumes," Campbell said. "With the playground the kids might be motivated to, while their mom is outside smoking, get away to a safe distance and not breathe in those chemicals."

Veda Gregory, associate professor of nursing, said when students start community health nursing, they are often unsure how the class and its projects relate to health and wellness.

"It is so rewarding to see students start to incorporate the concepts of caring for communities through outstanding projects such as this one developed and implemented by Kayley and Rebecca," she said. "The goal of community health nursing is that students will use these concepts in every aspect of their professional practice."

The grant to assist Conner's Center is the latest in a series of community-nursing grants from Dan Lucky, president of Abrams College in Modesto, Calif. and an adjunct faculty member in the Indiana State nursing program. Lucky completed an ISU bachelor's degree in nursing online in 2007 and launched a police nurse program in Ceres, Calif. He has since completed a master's degree in nursing and a doctorate in nursing practice.

Lucky's grants "give students a lot of opportunities to do projects the department could not afford. It's great to actually have the project put into motion and to see the results," Campbell said.

"It reminds us why we were studying to be nurses," Bodine said. "It's nice to get that warm fuzzy feeling when you do something for someone else."

Note: Individuals who want to help Conner's Center by volunteering or making a financial donation may contact the center at 812-466-3867 or by mail to 3212 E. Linn Ave., Terre Haute, IN 47805.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-Q28GKgj/0/L/i-Q28GKgj-L.jpg - Rev. Tim Long of the Lighthouse Mission's Conner's Center examines a resource guide for the homeless as Rebecca Campbell looks on. Campbell and fellow Indiana State University nursing student Kayley Bodine compiled the directory as part of a community-nursing project.

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu