Student Organization NSPIRE Reaches Out to the Community

Nursing Students Volunteer to Help Underserved Populations; Create Successful Race to Raise Funds

According to National Health Care for the Homeless Council, “Homelessness often begins with illness and escalates into problems with money, employment, and housing.” Additionally, individuals experiencing homelessness die 30 years younger than their counterparts with homes. Nursing students passionate about offering services to individuals experiencing homelessness and working to achieve health equity, formed Nursing Students Promoting Initiatives to Reinforce Equality (NSPIRE). NSPIRE raises public awareness and provides education about healthcare disparities while providing valuable educational experiences and community service.

In the past six years, NSPIRE has grown from a handful of committed nursing students to a student organization with more than 110 active members who are not only impacting their community but are also increasing their ability to provide patient-centered, culturally sensitive care.

Co-president Jennifer Lawson explains, “NSPIRE has taught me how crucial working in the community is to promoting health and wellness in the population. Working with underserved populations who encounter systemic barriers and have complex needs is a learned skill, and our members are well prepared for this aspect of nursing.”

NSPIRE’s largest community service initiative is organizing monthly clinics at St. Sophia’s Orthodox Church for individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness. NSPIRE faculty advisors Professor Pamela Salsberry, PhD, FAAN, and Clinical Instructor Alexis Downing, MS, guide undergraduate and graduate nursing students as they monitor blood pressure, heart rates, and blood glucose; perform diabetic foot inspection; and conduct emotional assessments for 25-35 individuals each month. Beyond the assessments, volunteers teach individuals about chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Community members gain a better understanding of their medication and how to make the best possible food choices, which is challenging since they have limited control over their own diet. Students learn to adapt their teaching to the circumstances at hand, and they learn to assess without the luxury of lab values and x-rays. NSPIRE members identify critical hypertension values and symptoms, diabetic emergencies, pneumonias, and wounds that are becoming dangerously infected, and then urge people to seek urgent care using language that is appropriate and sensitive to each individual’s situation. Students often return each month to a vastly improved person who embraces them and thanks them for their care and attention.

Regular visits by NSPIRE members have created a safe space and trusting environment, and NSPIRE continually assesses what more they do to help. Members refer to agencies in the community for patrons to receive follow-up care such as prescription refills and mental health services. NSPIRE provides hygiene packages and seasonal items (coats, socks, hats, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc.)

NSPIRE Co-President Meg Kane states, “It is so overwhelming to witness the fellowship and congenial relationships between the members of the mission and OSU students, who get no class credit for their time and hard work. Everyone is there to help and supports each other, because they want to make their community a better, stronger, healthier place.”

In addition to monthly clinics, NSPIRE engages in other community outreach and hosts film discussion to enrich students’ understanding of the multifaceted barriers facing the distinct populations that NSPIRE serves.

NSPIRE organizes educational “Mom and Baby” classes at the YWCA Family Center, sharing milestones and teaching moms about car seat and crib safety, nutrition, and immunizations. To reinforce their efforts, members designed and donated hygiene posters to decorate the lobby of the YWCA Family Center. NSPIRE has also provided monthly education classes to Columbus Collegiate Academy on nutrition, personal fitness, infection prevention, and sex education. They have created and presented calendars and pillowcases to children at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. NSPIRE members also offer primary prevention through education at community health fairs. Kane asserts, “By exposing our nurses-in-training to populations that are consistently going without, and encouraging the students to use their skills and training to help those in need, NSPIRE is putting the metanarratives established in the classroom into practice. In short, the students are both talking the talk and walking the walk.”

NSPIRE members walk the walk figuratively and literally. On April 12, NSPIRE hosted its second annual 5k Race to Heal, a family friendly wellness event to raise funds for NSPIRE initiatives and Ohio State Total Health and Wellness at University Hospital East. Race co-chair David Persinger explains, “NSPIRE seeks to eliminate health disparities through our community outreach activities. We also strive to raise public awareness of these disparities through events like the Race to Heal in order to build public support for more broad-based policies that can effectively address them. In order to build support for these policies, we must make certain that our community is aware of the complex barriers that medically underserved people face.”

At dusk, 228 participants gathered with their friends, partners, children, and pets to participate in the 5k Glow in the Dark Walk/Run at Ohio State’s Fred Beekman Park.  Dean Bern Melnyk, Associate Dean for Advanced Practice and Community Partnership Margaret Graham, and Director of The Ohio State Total Health and Wellness Clinic, Kristie Flamm, enthusiastically greeted participants and joined in the race. NSPIRE’s Race to Heal committee demonstrated tremendous leadership planning of the event as they mobilized more than 45 race day volunteers, solicited donations, generated enthusiasm, and encouraged peers to participate. Race co-chair Lindsay Meggas reflected, “After all of the hard work and behind-the-scenes planning that went into co-chairing the Race to Heal, it was even more inspiring to see so many people of all fitness levels participating with children in strollers and their dogs to help improve their overall wellness.” In total, NSPIRE raised $7,500 for their outreach efforts.

The Race to heal may be over, but NSPIRE members’ race to achieve health equity is constant. NSPIRE members continue to galvanize their nursing peers and mentor pre-nursing students to provide needed services in our community. As freshman pre-nursing student Brittney Pike explains, “Being involved with NSPIRE this year has helped me prove to myself that I am capable of making big impacts in small ways every day. NSPIRE members truly believe in Gandhi’s quote, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,’ and we persuade others to develop this mindset and way of life as well.”