NDSU nursing students participate in community project to gain understanding of health disparities

photo of Julie Krause, NDSU nursing student

When growing up in Fargo-Moorhead, senior nursing student Julia Krause volunteered at the Salvation Army and participated in church activities to learn and help bring awareness to hardships experienced by homeless individuals in the community.

As a college student, the public health nursing course at NDSU helped Krause expand her understanding of the topic and how it may apply to her career caring for future patients.

“As public health nurse educators, our goal is to connect NDSU nursing students with valuable, real-life experiences that will help develop an awareness of health disparities and demonstrate the importance of community partnerships,” said Dr. Nancy Turrubiates, lecturer and public health clinical coordinator in the NDSU School of Nursing

Students from the public health nursing class at NDSU, including Krause, helped achieve that goal when they participated in the annual Point in Time count in Cass and Clay counties in North Dakota and Minnesota, respectively, during spring semester.

The goal of the PIT count is to identify all “individuals and families whose primary nighttime residence is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train, airport or camping ground,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Krause found that participating in the count expanded her knowledge to aid in her future nursing career.

“During the PIT count, I was able to talk with so many individuals who have experienced so many hurdles and hardships in their lives. Many of them were just dealt a hand of un-ideal cards and were trying their best to make do with what they were given,” said Krause.

“Some individuals cannot afford a place to live, even if they are working a full-time job. We need to understand that many of these individuals are trying their hardest to make ends meet. To make a change and tackle the problem of homelessness in our community, we need to look at systems-level approaches,” said Krause.

Dr. Nancy Turrubiates and Kaitlin Schmitz, public health lecturer in the School of Nursing, collaborated with the Coalition to End Homelessness and its partners to complete the project. The PIT count is required on a yearly basis.

“Students in this course are provided opportunities to engage in the FM community and address public health issues, with the assistance of faculty,” said Turrubiates. “Through these experiences, students learn to understand the health-related challenges of vulnerable populations to prepare them to be quality care providers as future nurses,” said Turrubiates. “By fostering these experiences, our hope is that we are equipping our graduates with empathy, respect, and awareness of health disparity in our community.”

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