This post is written by guest writer and 2nd year MEPN, and Lihini Keenawinna
A one-hour field trip to the Christ Ministry Center (CMC) in Normal Heights began a journey for the students in my community clinical group. Christ Ministry Center is a coalition of individuals, congregations, and organizations who care about refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, migrants in detention and families broken by deportation.
We visited CMC simply to learn about community organizations located near our community site. Three hours after walking in the doors, each one of us in my clinical group left CMC with tears in our eyes and a feeling of great purpose. During that initial visit, we identified substantial needs of the clients we felt we could meet as nursing students. We wrote a letter to MEPN administrators explaining the needs of the clients at Christ Ministry Center and suggesting we work at the site during the fall semester for our community health clinical placement. At the time of our request, we were in the middle of our OB and pediatrics rotations, and convinced that the main needs at CMC were OB, pediatric care, and education. Our hard work and encouragement from the MEPN leadership team paid off. We began working at CMC in past fall 2018 semester.
On the first day at CMC, in an effort to build trust with residents, we armed ourselves with playdough, hula-hoops, and bubbles. Our hope was if the parents saw us getting on the same level as their kids, they would begin to trust us as well.
After a few weeks at CMC, we decided that it was time to tackle the issue presented to us by Pastor William Jenkins, who runs the site. He had raised concerns over the mental health of residents, many of whom have experienced unthinkable traumas in their past lives. Initially, we thought that this request was beyond our scope as nursing students. However, after much searching, we found a screening tool specifically directed toward the population of asylum seekers and refugees. It is available in almost every language, and easy to administer. Building upon the foundation of trust that we had laid the first few weeks at CMC, we began screening residents.
What we found was alarming. Most residents screened positive for health concerns such as trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression. Ethically, we felt we could not screen the residents unless we provided mental health resources. We decided to reach out to the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT) program at USD, in hopes of a collaboration of some sort. After we met with LMFT, we realized that it was a very natural fit, and their enthusiasm for the cause cemented our desire to move forward.
Currently our clinical group is in the process of creating a Wellness Program that will run every Saturday, beginning February 2019. This program will offer physical and mental health screenings, provide residents with resources to cope with stressors, and provide play therapy to the children.
The USD Changemaker Challenge came at an opportune time. We thought it was a perfect way to fund our endeavor at CMC. During one of our clinical days, we made a two-minute video describing our current and future work at CMC. The MEPN video entry was a finalist out of the 109 video received submissions to the USD Changemaker Challenge.
Ultimately, we won second place in the challenge and voted “Best Original Idea” by the Changemaker judges. Our MEPN clinical group received $2500 in prize money that will go towards furthering our work at CMC. This was an amazing opportunity offered by USD’s Changemaker Hub.
Our clinical group is thrilled to be a considered a Changemaker finalist. We are excited USD can be an anchor institution to Christ Ministry Center right here in San Diego.