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Poverty simulation helps shape future health care professionals

Students at the NDSU School of Nursing at Sanford Health in Bismarck will get a glimpse into how a family in poverty navigates the complexities of life. More than 60 senior nursing students are scheduled to take part in a poverty simulation experience on Friday, Oct. 7, from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Bavendick Stateroom at Bismarck State College. 

During the simulation, the nursing students will role-play the lives of low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family is to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities while interacting with various community resources.

Brittney Mueller, simulation coordinator at NDSU School of Nursing at Sanford Health, said the goal is to enable participants to view poverty from different angles and begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money over an extended period of time.

“As nurses embark on their careers, they will one day work with patients facing difficult decisions on a regular basis,” said Mueller. “Deciding whether to buy food or pay for health care is something that some people may face on a monthly basis. This experience lets future nurses understand some of the stressors that some patients face.”

Participants in the simulation will be taking on the role of people just below, on or just above the poverty line. Volunteers will fill roles, including role-playing as schoolteachers, social services, childcare workers, bankers and community healthcare providers.

“We expect that students will gain knowledge about how stressful navigating such systems can be,” said Mueller. “In role playing, they may do things they normally wouldn’t do to survive. And they may realize that patients are often facing stresses that are not so easily visible when a health care professional visits with them in a care setting.”

This is the first time the NDSU School of Nursing at Sanford Health will be conducting the simulation. Similar training is conducted in the College of Health Professions at NDSU.

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