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My career: The impact of collaborative community-based care

Meet senior Stephanie Harvey as she describes her summer nursing experiences as a rising junior in 2017 and rising senior in 2018.

Artwork by children expresses their future goals
At the local library, children express themselves through art while families have time to interact together.

Last summer I had the privilege of completing a 3-week medical program, called Summer Medical Institute. The program is partnered with Tenth Presbyterian Church and Esperanza Medical Center located in Philadelphia. During my three weeks, I lived in Kensington, Philadelphia, which is experiencing the opioid crisis firsthand. I attended church in the community and served the community. There are two main goals of the program: to go door-to-door performing free health screenings while connecting community members to sustainable services that are set up in the community. Connecting community members to sustainable services, such as churches and Esperanza, is a vital part of the program because the participants of the program are only in Kensington for three weeks. This is very little time to make any real changes. When community members are connected to local churches and primary care centers like Esperanza, they have people that will serve them long after we leave.

Out of the 26 participants in the program, three were nursing students and two were pre-med students. The remaining participants were physical therapy students, physician assistant students, or med students – all of which are post-baccalaureate programs. I thought this was unique in that no matter what our aspiring professions were, we all did the same day-to-day work. This encouraged professional communication that we learn about so much in our undergraduate nursing program at Villanova. I found that when we were practicing how to set up a sterile field to take a blood sugar reading, there were med students that had never done that before. Yet after only two years of nursing school, I was equipped to perform these tasks. This exemplifies the fact that one health profession is not over another; we all have different skill sets that we learn that are all vital to keeping our patients healthy.

Group of IBS Summer Interns.
Rising senior Stephanie Harvey (center, gold sweater), with other IBC Summer Interns in 2018.

Summer Medical Institute has grown my heart for community and public health. I learned the importance of learning about the “why’s” and “how’s” behind a person’s health. Because of this, this summer I decided to apply for and participate in Independence Blue Cross Foundation Nursing Internship. Through this internship I was placed at 11th Street Family Health Services in North Philadelphia. The nurse-led center is unique in that it houses a primary care office, a dental office, a behavioral health office, as well as an array of free community health programs focused on health promotion. The demographics of the patients that are served at 11th Street primarily come from the public housing neighborhood that is situated around the center which has a median yearly income of only $15,000. My primary role this summer was to facilitate a reading and creative play program. Every Thursday afternoon, parents could bring their children to the center where I would read to them and then do a craft based on the books that we read that week. My favorite craft we did was a cut-out person that the children dressed up in cloth and yarn in their ideal occupations. It was so encouraging to see the children talk about everything they aspire to be. They felt that their limit was endless.

In nursing school, we are taught over and over again about holistic care. Without my well-rounded undergraduate curriculum and faculty, I would have thought that hospital nursing was my only option. However, because of Villanova I was exposed to the importance of caring for the entire person – which includes their entire family. Through my experiences, I have learned so much about the deep intricacies that go into a person’s health. I have found that nearly all health habits form at a young age in the family unit. Moving forward, I hope to affect these habits by becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner or a midwife in the community setting.

“Through my experiences, I have learned so much about the deep intricacies that go into a person’s health”- senior Stephanie Harvey