'It's not just what they see.' Poverty simulation teaches nursing students about obstacles

Posted at 6:29 AM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 08:43:14-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Health care is Nashville's largest and fastest growing employer. The realities patients face however, can be far from the life their providers live.

A poverty simulation is training Vanderbilt University nursing students for those situations.

"It is important as they go into the community and care of the vulnerable that they truly understand the inequities in healthcare," said Tamika Hudson, assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University.

Typically, 40% of Vanderbilt's nursing graduates chose to work in rural or underserved areas where poverty is common.

During the training, volunteers with ties to the Edgehill community play roles typically found in a community.

Juanita Beauregard played a social worker.

"Sometimes I'm a very helpful, wonderful person and sometimes I can be your worst nightmare," Beauregard said. "A lot of times [the students] have no idea the difficulties...the little, simple difficulties that people go through."

About seventy students participated in the simulation on Thursday. The students are grouped into families and given a unique scenario.

"You might be a 19-year-old female with a one-year-old baby in a relationship with a 25-year-old," said Jannyse Starks, assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University and co-moderator. "[The participants] have to navigate with their little family to get through a month in a low income, low resource environment. We stress to the students this is not a game."

Beauregard takes it seriously. She has volunteered to help with the training too many times to count.

"I think people should have to go through this type of training so that they'll understand better what people are going through. There's a reason for things and the more we understand about each other, and the more we get together on doing things to help each other the better off we'll all be."

The poverty simulation was designed by the Missouri Community Action Network.