My community health project for KILN took place at the Barbara McInnis House located in the South End of Boston. Its mission is to provide or assure access to the highest quality health care for all homeless men, women, and children in the greater Boston area. The organization follows an integrated model of care and offers various services. For more information on the services provided please visit http://www.bhchp.org/integratedmodel.htm#
Ms. Pooja Bhalla was my mentor for this project. She has been working at the Barbara McInnis House for 13 years as a registered nurse and is the Associate Director of Clinical Operations. In a conversation, Ms. Bhalla discussed several initiatives which she and her colleagues were embarking on to control obesity in the patients who utilized the services at the house. Ms. Bhalla reported that obesity was an issue in this population because of the lack of education, resources, and finances. Consequently, nutritional deficiencies from poverty could lead to malnutrition and poor health outcomes. Illiteracy could result in poor management of illness/disease status, increased use of emergency department services, and increased healthcare costs. Moreover, homelessness can cause individuals to binge on junk food since they have little to no income to purchase healthy foods and no means of preparing or storing food.
To combat this obesity issue, Ms. Bhalla asked me to create bilingual paraphernalia that listed preventative steps for achieving healthy weight and sustaining good nutritional habits in a practical and cost-effective manner for this population. For example, some of the major weight management tips listed on the paraphernalia included being active, choosing healthy options, and portion control. For more information on these tips, please see the KILN Community Project PowerPoint Presentation. Besides these weight management tips, I had to create a library of resources to inform the community about symptoms of illnesses such as influenza and norovirus.
Throughout this community health project and mentorship, poverty was at the core of homelessness. By investigating avenues leading to poverty, this project reinforced how meeting the patient’s social, psychological, and physical needs and providing holistic care are key nursing characteristics. This is a fundamental aspect of the nurse-patient relationship as the assessment of precursors in patients’ lives, which can play a significant factor in their current health, has often been neglected by healthcare professionals. If we continue to neglect our duties as healthcare professionals, then how are we able to do good and avoid harm to patients? Thus, I always aim to treat individuals with respect, beneficence, justice, and cultural awareness in the clinical setting. Why? Well, I would like to be treated in the same manner if I were a patient.