Making a Difference, From Milwaukee to Mississippi

Alverno graduate nursing students know you can make a big difference in a short amount of time.

Over a four-day trip to northern Mississippi, five registered nurses who are studying to become nurse practitioners provided acute and urgent care as well as mental health services. They also got hands-on experience caring for residents of the impoverished, rural communities of Okolona and Vardaman, Miss.

“Many patients had to start working at a very young age to help support their family and never finished high school. As a result, we often needed to tailor our teaching style and the information presented to ensure that the teaching session was meaningful to each patient,” says Kathie Golata ’19. “As future advanced practice providers, this will be such an important part of providing competent, individualized care to each patient, no matter the setting.”

Nursing faculty Kristin Wroblewski and Becky Sobanski ’16 led the trip during winter break. The team connected patients with health resources, crucial in communities where roughly a third of the population lives below the poverty line and there is little access to comprehensive health care.

“Even the satisfaction of someone finding out their blood pressure or blood sugar was helpful to patients,” says Wroblewski. “It was helpful that a provider actually sat down with them, listened to them, understood what they needed and was willing to educate them on what they wanted to learn about.”

Golata will never forget the woman she met in Vardaman, a mother of six who had just lost her oldest son to suicide. This woman’s deep sorrow was making it difficult for her to get up each day, let alone care for her remaining children between the ages of 8 and 18.

With the help of a Spanish translator, Golata sat down with the woman to discuss the grieving process, how to cope with the loss of her son, and how to care for herself. Golata faced several challenges, including the woman’s lack of health insurance, but a collaborative approach resulted in a positive solution.

“As a health care provider in an unfamiliar location, with a language barrier and no knowledge of available resources, I felt completely helpless. However, after working closely with the staff at Catholic Charities, we were able to provide her with a voucher to receive a complimentary physical exam and access to mental health services for the next year,” Golata says. “This was a very eye-opening experience for me and made me appreciate the importance of knowing how and where to look for available resources in any health care setting.”

It’s clear that in a short amount of time, the Alverno team was able to make a significant difference in their patients’ lives. It’s also clear that what they learned on the trip has made a difference in their own lives.

“This was an extremely humbling experience for me as a person, a student and a professional,” says Golata, who earned her Master of Science in Nursing this May. “This opportunity allowed me to see health care in a completely different light and made me realize that we don’t need to go very far to make a positive impact on others. This experience also made me personally want to start exploring opportunities to make a difference in my own community.”

This article appears in the spring/summer 2019 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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