Nursing Students Volunteer at Remote Area Medical
Students in the Master’s Entry-level Professional Nursing Program (MEPN) at California State University, Dominguez Hills recently volunteered approximately 368 hours at Remote Area Medical (RAM) healthcare expedition which took place April 27 through May 3 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Twenty-three students, who are currently doing clinical rotations at Kaiser Downey and the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Long Beach, assisted physicians and practitioners with providing free examinations and procedures in general medical, podiatry, pharmacy, and women’s health at the weeklong RAM clinic.
Dr. Patricia A. Hinchberger, a registered nurse and director of the MEPN program, said that the event was an invaluable experience for students, providing them with first-hand exposure to the uninsured and underinsured in Los Angeles.
“This event reinforces why I am passionate about public health care access to all in our nation,” she said. “It also serves to reinforce our core values of caring, integrity, diversity, and excellence in health care education and calls upon us to respect the dignity and moral wholeness of every person we touch by valuing differences among persons, ideas, values, and ethnicities.”
Registered nurse and lecturer Angela Williams said that the experience of volunteering at RAM was a perfect opportunity for students to witness a realistic view of the medical field in order to make the right decision toward a nursing career.
“I would like to see more nurses become nurses for the right reason,” said Williams. “You see it in hospitals and different settings when a nurse lacks compassion and is clearly in nursing for all the wrong reasons. I think it takes a lot of compassion to work with the underserved population, and RAM was a terrific experience for our students to identify how they truly feel about nursing.”
Williams said that the MEPN program, which accepts applicants with undergraduate degrees in a variety of disciplines, benefits from the diversity of its students’ educational and job experiences.
“Students are able to bring experiences from other disciplines which are very valuable to the nursing profession,” she said. “For example, students with a background in social work can be more knowledgeable about services available for patients.”
Chanh Lieng, who left a position with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in environmental health and safety to become a nurse, said her career transition is something that she “always wanted to do” and the MEPN program’s emphasis on the community service opportunities for potential students is what attracted her to the university.
“The nursing program doesn’t want a student who is just book-smart,” she said. “They want a student who is well-rounded, who is able to communicate with patients, and who actually has what it takes and knows what it means to be a nurse.”
Ryan Hodges, who was stationed in the pharmacy, said that working at RAM gave him a chance to see how he could relate to patients.
“You get to spend a lot more time with the patients, understand them, and teach them how to improve their health not only in the hospital with their current condition but also when they get home,” he said.
Sasha Cichowski, who also worked in the pharmacy area, said that her Spanish-speaking skills were a definite advantage at RAM, where she said approximately 25 percent of the patients did not speak English.
“I think that they feel safer when someone [who speaks Spanish] can help them,” she said. “Academic Spanish is different than what you really speak and then medical Spanish is even harder because there is a lot of terminology you don’t know. I was just looking up words on [the Internet with] my phone. But usually you can describe things in a different way.”
Mitsi Kato, who is in her clinical nurse training at Kaiser Downey, echoed the sentiment that experiences like RAM are a good opportunity to practice thinking outside the box.
“It’s very interesting to work in a hospital,” she said as she assisted in the podiatry area at RAM. “You learn about theory and what is the best way to do it, and then you see what is the practical way.”
For other students, RAM was an eye-opening experience with underserved and underinsured populations that they do not often encounter in their clinical training.
Joanna McManus said that encountering the psychological and social issues of a low-income population taught her “to be a little more humble in recognizing people’s needs.”
Lieng said that the majority of patients who were helped at RAM - nearly 1,000 a day –cannot afford insurance or had inadequate insurance through their employers and that illustrates the need for health care reform and making affordable dental and vision coverage available to all.
“A lot of people are really being affected by this,” she said. “While people were waiting to see the nurse, I got to hear all their stories, so as a general volunteer it was very helpful for me. We have a health, economics, and policy class that we have to take. This brings it full circle.”
For more information on the MEPN program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.
- Joanie Harmon
Photos above: Nursing students from the MEPN program at CSU Dominguez Hills volunteered at Remote Area Medical. L-R: Johanna McManus, Shelby Weber, Mitsi Kato, Amber Griffin, Kathleen Brugman, and Chanh Lieng
Students get professional experience by assisting physicians and pharmacists at RAM.
Photos by Joanie Harmon