This post is written by 2nd year student and guest writer, Marisa Katsman
Throughout the last two semesters we have been able to spend our clinical hours at Hacienda Townhomes, a low-income housing facility in southeast San Diego. We have worked closely with the residents and manager, Miss Cassandra, to educate, celebrate, and empower the Hacienda community. These townhomes have 51 units; one being dedicated to the manager and one for a handicapped resident. The population is approximately 90% Hispanic, 5% African-American and 5% Caucasian. With about 200 residents (90 adults and 110 children), the community here is diverse, yet inclusive and friendly. Most of the residents are family members. Cousins, siblings, and friends play on the old, hot metal playground while the moms generally mingle and sit with Miss Cassandra. There is a strong sense of community here at Hacienda and as “the nurses” we have tried to build trusting and strong relationships with all the residents.
Most of our day is spent on education. We have touched healthcare topics ranging from sun safety, water safety, blood pressure, stroke, fire safety, depression, and cancer. We create engaging posters and fliers that allow clients to get visuals and reminders throughout the week. We hold educational events and invite all the residents to attend.
One of our favorite events focused on healthy eating and exercise. With the kids, we made healthy smoothies and healthy Popsicles filled with fruits and vegetables. After our cooking lesson we did some dancing, stretching, and hoola hooping. This event stressed the importance of being active and eating healthy to grow a strong heart and healthy bones.
Another resident favorite was ‘Meet a Cop’ day. On this day, we had Officer Ed come speak with the kids and parents. After his presentation, he let the kids look in his police car. This was a great experience because it allowed the residents to speak to a policeman in a non-intimidating way. He explained the importance of safety, the law, and overall following your dreams. One of the residences even stated, “I want to be a police officer when I grow up”.
Beyond educational events, we provide weekly blood pressure screenings for the residents and encourage them to keep track of their blood pressure. Many of residents did not know what the blood pressure numbers meant and how it related to their health and were happy when it was explained to them. We encourage residents to visit doctors and modify their lifestyles if their BPs were higher than normal.
In order to increase resident participation, we included an “Ask the Nurse” box. This allows the kids and parents to anonymously ask the nurses any questions. We found this extremely beneficial on both ends. It allowed us to get a better idea of what the residents were interested in as well as allowed the residents to ask anything on their minds. Most of the questions revolved around weight loss and healthy eating habits. We even had questions from the kids regarding puberty and body changes. We answered the questions honestly and appropriately and gave the answers in an envelope. The kids looked forward to their letters from the nurses every week.
Overall our time at Hacienda Townhomes has been impactful not only to the residents but to us as well. Throughout this next semester we have more education events planned, and even plan on making a trip to the local elementary school where most of the children attend. By going to this school, we will get a better idea of the education the children are receiving, the support they have at school, the recess facilities, and the food system. Through this experience we have learned about this diverse community and the ways in which we can make a difference in the lives of those living at Hacienda Townhomes.