Third-year nursing students at Selkirk College have a unique opportunity to develop their nursing skills and knowledge of the social factors that shape health on the streets of Nelson. They work with local agencies to help people in the community who may be dealing with issues of housing insecurity, addictions and untreated mental illness. It’s a different side of nursing, extending beyond the traditional model of treatment found in acute care, and for one student, it opened her eyes about little-known aspects of her home town.
For third-year Selkirk College nursing student Chelsey McKellar, a practice experience on the streets of her own community provided an opportunity to recognize and appreciate a side of Nelson she’d never before seen.
“It was really difficult seeing how prevalent homelessness and mental illness is in Nelson,” says McKellar. “It was a huge eye opener.”
The community nursing practice experience has been an integral component of Selkirk College’s Nursing Program for the last seven years. Six students spend one day a week, working in pairs with partner agencies such as Nelson CARES, Stepping Stones, ANKORS, Our Daily Bread and the Nelson Clubhouse.
Community health nursing speaks to the importance of establishing relationships, continuity of care, working with people on issues of importance to them, and viewing advocacy and involvement in public policy. These important nursing actions address the crucial social determinants of health such as inadequate housing, early childhood trauma, and poverty which predispose people to developing chronic diseases and addictions.
For McKellar, it was a rewarding experience.
“I loved it. This was by far the most impactful local practice experience through all my three years of education so far,” she says. “This has taken my blinders off as I see how many people are in need and that it’s just not the people coming in after bike crashes or with chronic diseases like diabetes. Some of these people never had a chance. We want to help them figure it out.”
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