DSU nursing students take talents to homeless shelter

DSU nursing students learn to care for real-world patients using realistic dolls. Regular practices are taught during class, and students can gain more experience during labs and clinicals. Photo by Madison Anderson.

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Dixie State University nursing students will be using their skills and knowledge to help the homeless community this semester.

In this new program, first and third-semester nursing students will be providing health histories and physical assessments to those in need at the Switchpoint homeless shelter. They will also give referrals and teach classes in the afterschool program.

According to Vicky O’Neil, chairperson of the department of nursing, “[First-semester nursing students] are going to collect the health histories and help [clients] fill out the form, because many of [the homeless] have mental illness and filling out a form is too much for them.”

Around 80 percent of the clients at Switchpoint have a mental illness according to Carol Hallowell, executive director of Switchpoint. A large portion of clients are also duel diagnosed, meaning they have both a physical and mental illness.

After their medical histories are filled out, a third-semester nursing student will do a physical assessment on the patient, review the findings with faculty, and possibly refer them to a doctor at the free clinic or the emergency room.

Melayna Grigg, a first-semester nursing student from Provo said she is “excited about the neat opportunities that are lined up for students” and that she loves seeing her studies being applied in a real-life situation.

Both O’Neil and Hallowell both said they were eager to get the program started; Hallowell said she believes it could have a positive impact on the entirety of St. George as well as DSU.

“My only reservation is that [the allotted time] won’t be enough. We’re full, and we’re always full, and they all [need medical attention],” Hallowell said.

Right now, the uninsured homeless head straight to the free clinic or the emergency room for any problem. With this program in place, however, there is a hope to alleviate some of the client demand at those places.

“[I am most excited about] connecting with our community, that we are serving our community needs,” Oneil said. “That is part of what DSU is about.”