Many of you have probably heard of Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian organization that treats people around the world threatened by violence, neglect and catastrophe. But have you ever heard of Nursing Students Without Borders (NSWB)? You may not have, but remember the name. NSWB provides students the opportunity to serve underserved communities through health education. It helps in creating networks to access health care resources and to distribute material donations, both nationally and internationally. Their work promoting culturally competent nursing practice and education around the globe, and just around the block, is impressive and impactful. Just ask the nursing students at Worcester’s Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University (MCPHS) who, as members of the school’s NSWB chapter, have spent the last year volunteering at Florence House, one of Ascentria’s Teen Parenting Programs located in Worcester. Their efforts are making a positive difference with the young mothers living there.
“Initially we started with some basic workshops,” says Nicole Brisbois, a nursing student at MCPHS and a member of NSWB. “We provided workshops on such topics as nutrition and hygiene, for both the moms and the babies.”
Soon borders of another kind started to disappear.
Teen mothers, many of whom have been through traumatic experiences and challenges, were starting to think beyond their current circumstances and toward the future.
Lorrie MacDonald MSN, RN, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at MCPHS explains. “The nursing students started to get questions about working as a CNA, and other health care professions” she notes. “Our students were becoming a positive role model for the mothers.”
“The majority of the mothers are our age,” adds Nicole, “so we were able to speak with them as peers.” Chris Mancini, former president of the school’s NSWB chapter reflected “It's easy as a student to get caught up in the class work: lab values, medication side-effects, and causes of various disease processes. Volunteering with Florence House reminded me why I got involved in nursing in the first place– to help those who need it. Being able to serve as a mentor and role model for the girls at Florence House was more rewarding than getting an A on a term paper!”
In early February, Lorrie MacDonald and her nursing students began teaching a CPR/First aid certification course. Five of the Florence House residents participated in this training. In mid-April the course ended and Lorrie was excited to tell us that they all passed the questions, and also performed the skills necessary to receive the certification card!
“In essence,” says Diane Fitzmaurice, volunteer manager at Ascentria, “these nursing student volunteers have been creating an environment of empowerment, investing and believing in these young women during their journey towards self-sufficiency.” Justine Trinque, Florence House manager agrees and commented, “It was so helpful for the girls to have professionals from outside coming in to show they support them.”
So will the community partnership between Ascentria Care Alliance and MCPHS continue?
The answer is a resounding “yes” and possibly in the form of health fairs, mentoring programs and educational outreach to Ascentria’s culturally diverse client populations.
“I love the work that we do with the Florence House and I'm so happy to continue it and expand further!” says Nicole.
“Strengthening communities,” points out Diane. “That’s what this is all about.”