UWM DNP Students Making a Difference at the Transitional Living Center

When COVID-19 hit Wisconsin, our students, faculty and community partners weren’t quite sure how the semester would unfold at UWM. One certain thing was our partners still needed our students in ways one would not have anticipated earlier this year.

Transitional Living Center (TLC), in Burlington, Wisconsin, has been helping community members through homelessness and transition back to a place of independence since 1993. As COVID-19 cases spread through our region, TLC needed guidelines developed for families at the facility during the pandemic.

UWM Clinical Assistant Professor, Dr. Rosina Bloomingdale, stepped up to oversee a project for our Doctor of Nursing Practice, Clinical Nurse Specialist students to develop, test, and implement guidelines at TLC as their clinical practicum. Starting in April 2020, the four UWM students, Rebecca Collins, Mashandra Elam Canty, Lucy McNamie and Karen Stevens, helped TLC facilitate ways to operate during the COVID-10 pandemic.

TLC stopped accepting new families in March 2020 amid the crisis, although they had two families staying within their care. Students began reviewing existing policies while working and learning from TLC staff, clients, the board of directors, and community partners.

The student team worked tirelessly to find ways the living center could reopen and continue operations during COVID-19. The goals of the population health clinical practicum included:

  • Learn from the community, perform Burlington community and TLC setting environmental assessment of the setting at TLC, review and gather data, evaluate evidence from procedures concerning the homeless population;
  • Develop educational tools, presentations, demonstrations and teaching scenario for TLC staff;
  • Develop educational tools, demonstrations, teaching guides for resident parents children;
  • Develop sustainable COVID-19 prevention strategies for residents, staff, volunteers and visitors.

Through a holistic nursing lens, the graduate students developed the new COVID-19 guidelines, policies and procedures, collaborated with the director, and met with stakeholders to understand and address system problems in order to ensure quality and safety throughout the reopening. In just four weeks, the living center reopened on May 28th at fifty percent capacity with new education procedures, prevention strategies, and response plans.

Cristen Chaffee, TLC Executive Director shared, “Continuing homeless services during the current pandemic was not only critical but necessary. With the help of the doctoral nursing program through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, TLC was able to develop new program guidelines, work to create a safe environment for staff and clients, and devise a long term pandemic policy. It was with the students guidance, direction and expertise that TLC feels confident moving forward to continue its mission in helping the homeless during these unprecedented times.”

Rebecca, Mashandra, Lucy and Karen have much more work ahead under Dr. Bloomingdale’s mentorship as they work to address larger system problems, physical space, emergency and safety procedures, webpage information and update, community resources, and transportation for the Western Racine County where TLC is located. All of this is occurring as TLC has seen a massive decrease in donations due to the change in the economy, which it currently relies heavily on.

The long-term planning must consider the social crisis, economic impact, mental health of resident parents and children, including trauma from the pandemic, food insecurities, and various other factors that shape the residents’ experiences and overall health.

“Being able to help a vulnerable population during a global pandemic is very rewarding, and an excellent way to apply what we have learned during our doctoral nursing program.” Rebeccah Collins



“This collaboration gave the team an opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills we’ve absorbed from various courses at UWM. I found myself reaching back to literature and material from Leadership, Health Policy, Global Maternal and Child Health, and Clinical Nurse Specialist Practicum I.” Mashandra Elam-Canty, MSN, BSN, RNC-OB, MBA


Looking back on the experience so far, this unexpected chance to work with TLC has taught me more than I could have anticipated. I am so grateful that TLC was willing to partner with us. They do beautiful and important work for the community serving people experiencing homelessness and hardship. This work is more critical than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lucy C. McNamee, RNC-OB, CLC, CCCE


“I feel fortunate to be able to help the Transitional Living Center continue to serve their community during this pandemic. I will come out of this project having gained a valuable experience in community health, policy and procedure development, and infection prevention. With the different backgrounds of our UWM doctorate nursing group, we have partnered with the Transitional Living Center to keep their staff, clients, and community safe.” Karen Stephan, RN, BSN