Nurse educators know that optimal and potentially transformational learning occurs when content taught in the classroom can be applied to real life experiences.
Thanks to a successful collaboration with the Homeless Health Initiative at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), senior nursing students in the Nursing Care of Children and Adolescents course have opportunities to apply their theoretical knowledge of growth and development, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), trauma informed care and protective factors while participating in fitness, nutrition and wellness programs in the shelters serving women and children. They are part of an interdisciplinary team of nurses, social workers, fitness instructors, nutritionists, physicians, dentists and medical students who travel to the shelters to provide wellness programs.
Sally Poliwoda, MSN, RN, Community Nurse Advocacy Fellowship Coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and alumna of the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing has been facilitating this relationship since its initiation in 2011. Mellissa Berrios Johnson, MSW, Homeless Health Initiative Social Work Trainer has provided expert mentoring to the students from the social work perspective. Misty Conlan, MSN, RN, alumna, adjunct faculty and emergency nurse at CHOP was also instrumental in the development of this experience.
Students learn about Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) from Professor Elizabeth Dowdell, PhD, RN, FAAN, an expert on the effects of violence on children. ACES is a term that comes from the Center for Disease Control’s 1997 research which shows a correlation between childhood trauma and adult health outcomes. The child’s developing brain is affected by ACES and can lead to many chronic diseases, mental health and substance abuse problems and violence. The 10 ACEs measured in the research are physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, a family member who is diagnosed with a mental illness, a family member addicted to substances, a family member in the prison system, witnessing a mother being abuses and losing a parent to separation, divorce or death. There is evidence that Children, Adolescents and Mothers experiencing homelessness are often affected by multiple ACES.