Students, faculty partner with Macon homeless clinic
On any given day, you can see dozens of people roaming the streets of downtown Macon. Many have no home, no food and
no hope for their future.
A new facility, however, opened its doors earlier this year to help those living on the streets. Daybreak Center provides the homeless with hygiene, health, education and job preparation opportunities.
It is not an overnight shelter; instead it is a resource center with the goal of helping the homeless move toward housing stability and lives of greater dignity.
The center not only provides resources for clients, it also allows the homeless to get free health care, and Georgia College is on the front lines of providing that care.
“This is one of the reasons I became a nurse,” said Howard Futch, a student currently working at Daybreak. “I am continuing my education to become a nurse practitioner so I will have the opportunity to give back to the community.”
Georgia College family nurse practitioner students and nursing faculty members provide the health services offered to patients at the clinic under the supervision of a collaborating physician.
“My expectations were I would just be doing history and physicals, but we got to participate with the patients and instructors well beyond that,” said Futch. “Not only did we do history and physicals, but we also formulated treatment plans for the patients with the guidance our instructors.”
Beginning during the spring 2013 semester, Georgia College students pursuing their Master of Nursing Practice completed a portion of their clinical work at the center.
“Daybreak is one of the most unique clinical experiences I have had as a graduate student.” said Kristen Corbin, who completed her clinical work at Daybreak last semester. “We cannot order every test or prescribe multiple medications when there are limited resources. We have to be efficient and focus on the primary complaint.”
Many patients have had little or no medical care, so the students are charged with explaining the benefits of things like taking medication correctly and making the patients understand that they can have better health and a better life.
“These clients presented us with different lifestyle challenges for health maintenance and compliance,” said Futch. “Addressing each patient as an individual without prejudice and assessing their health needs is important to forming a trusting relationship. When information is shared freely with them, they can receive the best resources for their health.”
Over the last few months, organizers at the facility say patients have become more compliant with medical care suggestions, and they have also seen an increase in the number of patients returning to continue their care.
“The goal is to provide a service learning atmosphere for students where they can get a different view of the health care system while helping an underserved population,” said Dr. Deborah MacMillan, assistant director of graduate programs for the School of Nursing. “This experience outside the confines of a ‘normal clinic’ gives them a new perspective on patient care and a more complete education.”
The need for adequate care is critical for these patients. By utilizing the skills and education of students in the Master of Nursing Practice Program, these patients can get the care they need while providing a training ground for students.
“These students are getting hands-on experience in a situation where nurse practitioners manage the clinic with a collaborating physician,” said MacMillan. “Georgia has a significant physician shortage, ranking 41st in the nation for the number of physicians per 1,000 people. Many rural areas in Georgia have limited or no access to a physician in their communities, and clinics in these areas benefit from being able to utilize this model. The service learning experience is valuable on that level, but equally important they are learning to serve a different clientele than most expect to work with in a typical doctor’s office.”
According to MacMillan and other faculty members, the students have responded very well to the experience at Daybreak, coming back to volunteer outside of the class requirements.
“All of the students that I have worked with ask to come back to Daybreak, and one even asked for it to be her regular clinical site, because they enjoy working with the patients in this environment so much,” said Sheryl Winn, assistant professor of nursing. “The Daybreak experience is important for the students because it gives them a unique experience of working with a vulnerable population, the homeless.”
The students who have worked at Daybreak say the experience is both educational and rewarding.
“The classroom is great, but nothing in my opinion can beat the actual hands on real world environment,” said Futch “It provided an opportunity for actual patient interaction with our instructors so that we have face to face experience with our patients in the real world environment.”
“People are people,” said Corbin. “Everyone deserves care. These patients are some of the most appreciative patients I have encountered in clinical practice.”
DePaul USA, 10 area churches, local grants and private donors fund Daybreak Center. All services are free for those who qualify.
For more information, visit the website depaulusa.org.
To learn more about the Master of Nursing Practice program at Georgia College, visit the School of Nursing website.