Community simulation gives students a glimpse of patient realities

On a cold, November morning, two senior UWM College of Nursing students enter a Milwaukee County Transit bus to embark on a short simulation experience in the community. Hannah Horn and Kinyai Thurman, begin their community clinical simulation, approximately a four-hour assignment that has the pair visiting health and social service agencies in Milwaukee. Pairs of nursing students are given a scenario with four agencies to visit, including one scheduled appointment. Clinical Assistant Professor Teresa DuChateau explains, “The purpose of the community simulation is to give students the opportunity to experience some of the challenges that families and patients, who live in poverty and rely on public transportation, experience daily in meeting their most basic needs and to educate them regarding the various community resources available.”

Hannah and Kinyai were given their list of agencies they needed to visit, along with their scheduled appointment for 10am at St. Ben’s Clinic to have their headaches and blurred vision evaluated. The pair was simulating a person who recently lost their job and health insurance and is having trouble affording their diabetes prescriptions and food.  Both Kinyai and Hannah are familiar with the Milwaukee County Bus system but this simulation is a bit different for the pair. Neither of the students were aware of any of the listed organizations.

Hannah, who grew up in Jefferson, Wisconsin was both nervous and excited prior to the simulation, as this was a new experience for her. Prior to the community simulation, Hannah stated she hoped this allows her “to evaluate, reflect, and understand a piece of what my patients struggles are; it will only equip me to be better prepared to respond and advocate on my patients behalf.” Kinyai had a different perspective… she felt prepared. When she was young her family experienced living at limited financial means. She has lived in three major metropolitan cities, most recently Chicago. This pair of students have quite different life experiences.

After St. Ben’s Clinic, the students took a short walk to the Rescue Mission where they both learned much more than they anticipated. The Milwaukee Rescue Mission is the largest in the state, offering shelter, clothing and food for those in need. The students received a tour, resource materials and gave a donation to the organization before moving on to their next destination. At this point, it was 11:50am and the students needed to get to the Food Pantry at Church of the Living God as it closed by noon. Hannah and Kinyai couldn’t make it to all of their destinations and from the simulation perspective, they chose to go hungry in order to receive treatment for their symptoms caused from the lack of diabetes medications.

Last stop was the Social Development Commission where they needed to get more information about the Prescription, Advocacy and Referral Service (PARS) program, as the simulated person recently ran out of required diabetes medication. The students visited and then returned to campus about 12:30pm.

Once back to campus, Hannah and Kinyai were enjoying the warmth of the indoors, armed with resources and a new experience. As Kinyai explained, “I never knew these services were options in Milwaukee. So many people are only in need of the next check or minimal transitional help.”

Looking a bit physically and emotionally drained, both Hannah and Kinyai were in obvious need of food and warmth from their four-hour simulation of chasing buses and making appointments on time.

See more: Hannah and Kinyai took over UW-Milwaukee’s Snapchat to capture their adventures of the day. Check out the video!