Nursing Students Serve Homeless As Part of Education

Aug 18, 2019

Eric Mimms is wrapping up her nursing education with Western Governors University. (Carter Barrett/IPB News)

Hundreds of people snake through the warehouse at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Indianapolis, picking up canned goods, cartons of milk and other groceries. 

Tucked away in the same facility is Gennesaret Free Clinic and pharmacy. On a Thursday evening, nursing students from Western Governors University help staff the volunteer-run clinic.

As part of their education, the nursing students rotate through a community health clinic – which usually means serving poor or underserved communities. Mary Carney is the director of nursing for the online, non-profit university. She says she wants to expose students to medicine outside of a hospital. 

“There’s so much more to nursing that we like to expose our students to the other world of health care,” Carney says. “That has to do with not with the acute illness but the chronic illness, the population health, the disease prevention.”

Carney says her average student is 37-years-old, works full-time and is often a first-generation college student. 

“For many of them, this is an atmosphere that they perhaps have experienced.” Carney says. 

Erica Mimms is one of the students rotating through the free clinic. She says she knows what it’s like to need assistance when looking for medical care. 

“Some people don’t always see the other side. I’ve been on that other side, and needed some help as well too,” Mimms says. “To see this open up for the community is just amazing.” 

Gennesaret Free Clinics see patients with diabetes, hypertension, colds and other common medical issues. 

Director of development for the Gennesaret clinics, Tom Fagan, says the rotation exposes nursing students to the idea of volunteering as a medical professional. 

“By having the nursing students come through they’re helping to staff the clinics but they’re also creating a culture within their schooling for pursuing that kind of work once they get out and get into the workforce,” Fagan says.

WGU also places students at volunteer clinics in South Bend, Elkhart and Vincennes.