Nursing Students Support Women with Substance Use, Mental Health Challenges

Laura Evans

Friday, August 5th, 2022

In the third semester of the Master of Science in Nursing degree with a concentration in Clinical Nurse Leader, students take a course called Integrated Healthcare: Population Health. In this class, the students are grouped and work with a local organization on their semester project.

The organizations vary, but all groups work with a particular population of individuals, including children, those experiencing homelessness, individuals with disabilities or those in a recovery center.

This semester, one group worked with Hope House, a facility that supports women with substance use and mental health challenges. Hope House is a women-only facility and provides a safe living space for women and their young children while they receive treatment. Hope House not only offers living space but also provides its residents with individual and group substance use counseling, parenting support and education, employment and education assistance, family support and education, certified peer-to-peer support, relapse prevention education and intensive case management. They also provide many of these services as outpatient treatment.

On July 9, the Hope House group — consisting of Miranda Matthews, Cindy Thao, Alexandra Metz, Anna Tovo, Elizabeth Nemec, Katie Wheat, Libby Newsome, Natalie Mills, Savannah Meaux and Vernisha Phillips, along with Assistant Professor Rebecca Rule — offered a health fair for facility residents. The group met with a council of Hope House residents prior to the event to learn what topics the residents would like to see presented. These topics included child development, healthy relationships, the effects of drugs on the body and women’s health.

In a separate area, the students created a fun zone for children of the residents attending the health fair. They had age-appropriate activities for the kids, including coloring and a slime station, which allowed the women to focus on themselves and the health fair.

The residents visited each booth and then took a Kahoot! quiz to test their knowledge from the fair. They received pamphlets the students created as well as personal hygiene items, snacks and a journal.

For the last activity of the fair, affirmations were passed out to each resident and each student. Each person took a turn reading aloud their selected affirmation and discussing what it meant to them. The affirmations were as simple as “I believe in myself.”

This activity initiated connections not only between the students and residents, but also between the residents and students themselves.

“I was appreciative of the residents sharing personal stories during our discussion,” said Matthews. “I was amazed by their willingness to share and learn. I thought they would be apprehensive of listening to us, but we found common ground. It’s a reminder that our life experiences are similar, despite our unique personal challenges.”

Moving forward, the group recommends developing a network of organizations relevant to Hope House’s mission and collaborating with them on future health fairs, ensuring the Hope House resource booklet is kept up to date for residents and staff to reference. They hope to continue to foster a working relationship with Hope House staff and residents to ensure topics evolve with the population.

“Both the residents and staff expressed gratitude and asked us to return for future events. Specifically, the health fair served a huge morale boost for the community,” said Matthews.

Rule concurred.

“It was an honor and pleasure partnering with Hope House,” she said. “The health fair was well received and the insight gained by the students was tremendous.”