Students assess community's need for nursing service

8/29/2007 7:00:00 AM

Orvis School of Nursing students recently concluded the first step of a nursing needs assessment of Washoe County and Carson City. Coordinator of the project and assistant professor, Deborah Shindell recognized the need for more nursing services and hopes the assessment will result in establishments of clinics in areas of high need.

The project began earlier this summer when an overwhelming amount of local organizations expressed the need for more services such as clinics, which can serve health promotion and prevention, to Shindell. Shindell then employed the help of 47 nursing students to assess what nursing services are most needed and where.

The students broke up into groups, each group working on an assigned area in Washoe County and Carson City. The students conducted initial observations of their areas, which are called windshield surveys.

"They observe what's there, like stores, what organizations are based there, the quality of housing, transportation and what medical services are offered in the area," Shindell said.

After gathering information such as population density or average income in the area, the students focused on the areas with the highest need for medical services and conducted surveys with those who lived there. From the surveys, they could determine what services were needed.

The project benefits the nursing students as well, who gain experience with the processes they've learned in classrooms and are able to do work with the community.

"The students get to learn the process firsthand by challenging themselves," Shindell said. "They went to neighborhoods that were intimidating and progressively got more comfortable in them."

Shindell also hopes that the students can gain perspective on the lives of the people who live in these poverty ridden areas.

"They realize how much people need these services," Shindell said. "They can see how difficult it is for poorer individuals to get what we consider basic health care."

According to Shindell, the area with the highest need for nursing services in the Washoe County was the Virginia Lake area. There is no local clinic in this area and many have to travel longer than an hour to reach medical services.

"Many families have several children and must travel by bus to downtown, where most of the services as congregated," Shindell said. "The Virginia Lake area is highly underserved."

Shindell believes the current state of medical services and clinics in the Washoe County and Carson City areas is inadequate in serving the growing populace. What clinics there are cannot efficiently serve the throngs of patients seeking medical help.

"It's often a very long wait to schedule an appointment in certain clinics and so they go to places like the emergency room for minor health issues," Shindell said.

Nevada's also ranks very low for medical services nationwide, Shindell said. Shindell hopes to raise the state's ranking as well as alleviate the population's need for services by founding clinics in high need areas as a result of the current assessment.

"Ideally, I would like a collaboration between the University and other partners within the university who are already offering their services to extend their reach to other areas," Shindell said.

Shindell said all those involved would be benefited in such a collaboration. Students would gain hands-on experience, existing clinics would be able to serve their clients efficiently, and most important of all, those who need services would be receive it promptly.

"It is a wonderful learning experience to collaborate with the community," Shindell said. "It's truly a win-win situation."


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