Nursing students gain skills and offer help in community

Nursing students gain skills and offer help in community

Senior level community clinical practice class students in the Orvis School of Nursing (OSN) at the University offer a variety of services to the community, from working at health fairs, assisting clients with chronic illness and mental disabilities. The students trade their care to the community for a wealth of experience in the field.

Community clinical practice is a requirement for all OSN students. Their course work includes theory, which is taught in a classroom setting, and clinical practice. The students apply their theory coursework in caring for the community's most vulnerable citizens in the clinical practice portion.

The 47 students enrolled in the semester are divided into five groups and each group is assigned to particular sectors in Washoe County and in Carson City.

Paul Dente, nursing major, is assigned to the southwest region of Reno, which also includes the downtown area -- one of the locations that demonstrated a high need for nursing services.

"Both southwest and downtown Reno have huge nursing services needs," Dente said.

The community clinical practice class is divided into two sections of focus throughout the semester: community health and mental health. Dente, along with the other students, is currently working in the mental health clinical portion at the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Institute. The clinical experience has led him to some important realizations.

"Mental disorders are a lot more common than you would realize," Dente said. "It opened my eyes."

This is one of the great benefits of the program according to Cathy Butler, coordinator of the community clinical practice course.

"An indirect result of the course is that the students learn about their knowledge deficits, judgments and biases," Butler said. "They learn about the day-to-day reality of their community's citizens."
The students' relationship with the community at large is one of give and take. While the students can benefit by honing their skills and gaining valuable experiences in nursing, they are also assisting the community with the lack of nursing services in certain locations.

"The community clinical course provides services for gaps in nursing care," Butler said.

The students also learn about the different roles a nurse plays in their clients' lives. Dente said that he has learned to distinguish between the role of a hospital nurse and a nurse working in the community, and how that affects the patients' experience with health services.

The students are also in the second phase of the community needs assessment project, which began during the summer. The previous class identified which areas in Reno were in need of more services.
This year, the data the students are gathering is more in depth. They continue the data collection through surveys. The surveys, which are taken by people from different locations in the Washoe County and Carson City areas, cover where community-based nursing services are located in the community and in which areas they are needed.

"Once we're finished filing our surveys and data, we're going to come up with nursing intervention processes the next group of students will implement," Dente said.

The long term community project will attempt to find a solution for the lack of nursing services in underserved areas.

"One of our dreams for the program is to open a nurse-based clinic," Butler said.

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