Role in Patients' Lives

Course reinforces students' outreach to the underserved

Rosemary Hall, Ph.D., M.S.N., center, helps nursing students like Ana Pacheco connect with community health care needs.

As a profession, nursing is committed to reaching patients beyond the confines of hospitals and other clinical facilities. At the University of Miami, Community Health Nursing teaches students how to help patients in a variety of settings.

Rosemary Hall, Ph.D., M.S.N., designed the class to bring a real-life dimension to students' clinical work. "Students become part of a team of caregivers and bring their skills to situations requiring extra understanding and commitment," Hall says. "We push ourselves into patients' lives."

We push ourselves into patients' lives.

One such student, Anna Iglesias, went for her first home visit to see Fannie, a referral from the Thelma Gibson House in Coconut Grove. That day Iglesias and Hall had several difficult cases, but this was by far the most heart-wrenching. Fannie lived in the same one-bedroom apartment for 49 years, which was in poor sanitary condition and infested with roaches. A diabetic and stroke victim, she had a serious eye infection and was unable to walk. Hall and Iglesias helped Fannie understand her need for medical attention, and together they called 911. She was taken to the hospital for immediate care, then transferred to another facility for a long-term stay. When Iglesias visited, she found that Fannie had improved significantly. "Helping Fannie to understand her need for help and then arranging for care was so gratifying," Iglesias says.

Two other students in Hall's classes, Irahisa Disla and Ana Pacheco, also demonstrated extraordinary perseverance. They met Tory at Narcotics Anonymous, where some clients were assigned to nursing students for assistance with health issues. Tory, an addict for 18 years, agreed to work with the students and expressed his desire to overcome addiction. While he failed to attend his first follow-up meeting with Disla and Pacheco, they eventually tracked him down. The months that followed were challenging, but they refused to give up.

Tory realized the depth and sincerity of their interest and finally, after two months, he committed to treatment and soon thereafter was admitted into a rehabilitation facility. "I relied on my intuition, my understanding of human nature, to reach out and let him know that he was worthy of self-love and that he was a good person," Disla says.

Tory has maintained his sobriety and says, "These students are my Hurricane Angels to freedom from cocaine addiction."

Students in the course agree that it changed their perception of the profession and reinforced their commitment to the underserved. "I plan to become active in creating public policy or working with a public health agency," Disla says.