Nursing faculty and students had already been gaining out-of-hospital experience by providing health education and honing their skills in various locations—from under bridges to jails to church health fairs and crisis centers.
Prior to the van’s emergence as a cutting-edge tool for the school, students and professors loaded a car with supplies and a card table to service their outreach trips. After the official dedication of the van in September, remote health care became much easier and much more accessible.
Greta Degan, director of Concordia’s Master of Science in Nursing program, said last year prior to the dedication the van would open up several opportunities for Concordia’s nursing school.
“Having the van will make such a difference in where we can go and what we can say ‘yes’ to,” Degan said. “In the past, we turned down so many opportunities to serve because program centers were too small.”
Since using the van for the fall 2018 semester, Degan said there have been noticeable benefits.
“Having four walls around you, even if the door is open and the teacher is standing there, still helps the patients feel more comfortable talking about themselves,” she said. “So, when we’re in the field the students are able to elicit better answers and ... ask more directed questions for the health assessments. ... The learning that takes place is more authentic, it’s more intense and it’s more confidential.”
Concordia nursing students working in the field have previously served clients such as Mission Possible’s Church Under the Bridge, Leander Church of Christ’s Bright Days Food Pantry, Lake Travis Crisis Ministries, the Travis County Correctional Center and Williamson County’s wards of state program as well as churches and fire departments. Thanks in part to the mobile van, Concordia’s nursing program has been developing partnerships with two new entities that are helping connect students with people needing outreach—Foundation Communities, which among other services provides apartment housing for immigrants, and Caritas of Austin, which provides case managers for homeless people who have recently been housed.
Degan, whose specialty is in homeless outreach, said being able to be out of the elements due to the shelter provided by the van also makes a big difference in the quality of care students are able to provide.
“It just hurts me to see some of the people who need health care so desperately that they’re willing to stand out in the beating down sun just to get a place in line,” she said. “So, this kind of alleviates that.”