On November 29, 2011, I attended a lecture on healthcare for the Boston homeless community in Higgins Hall at Boston College. The lecture began with a short video demonstrating the importance of providing care for the homeless as it is a population with many health needs but lacks the adequate resources to seek health care. Moreover, not many students go into college determined to work at a homeless clinic, which is a reason why Cheryl Kane, the director of development and street nurse for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program and the presenter of this lecture, came to speak at Boston College. Kane discussed all the opportunities that working for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program provides for health care professionals as well as her own personal experience of working in such organization.
There are 80 sites in Boston that provide healthcare services to the homeless population and hire different types of health care providers. However, one role that caught my interest was that of the Community Health workers (CHW). These health care professionals would go to shelters making sure the patients were taking their medication regimens. Life in the shelter begins at 3pm and ends at 6am. Those who are homeless have nowhere to go during the day so they are out all the time walking. Cheryl Kane explained that this is why many if not all their patients present trench/emergent foot as their chief complaint. This is a disorder only seen with homeless patients and that is why she stated that there is a need and a “responsibility to improve care for the homeless population”. They are not like every other patient that comes into the hospital; they live in a different environment and do not receive adequate patient care. She also said that we, as a community, need to advocate for housing and health care needs of this population.
The presentation provided me with a new understanding about health care legislation and the importance of advocating for patients in legislation and public health care. I think it is important for nursing students to learn about health care legislation as everyone should have the right to receive appropriate health care. I remember one story from the lecture was about a young man who had developed eye cancer, but because he was homeless and mainly worried about meeting his basic needs (shelter, food, water, clothing), his eye was the last of his concerns. Although the story ended with his death, I think it is essential to learn about these experiences because not everyone is fortunate to have their basic needs met. It is important to provide the best care for all patients, because the world is diverse and patients come different environments.