Nursing students and faculty at Sullivan Foundation partner school Tennessee Wesleyan University spent part of their Fall 2021 semester out in the community, serving others and gaining perspective on the challenges facing the people of Athens and Knoxville, Tennessee and surrounding communities.

Along with students from the Master of Occupational Therapy program, the nursing students completed their community health clinical at Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM), a shelter near Fort Sanders Hospital that provides free resources for area residents, many of them homeless.

“It was interesting and eye-opening,” said Grace, a senior from Athens. “When you’re raised a certain way, there’s just parts of life that you don’t see or experience, like the bridge right next to KARM, where there’s, like, a plethora of homeless people all doing drugs. You just don’t see that every day, and it just makes you appreciate what you have and what you are blessed with.”

The students provided support services, including wound care, handed out meals, and observed some of the resources provided by KARM, such as homeless support meetings.

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“I thought the stories were interesting, how like everyone has a different story of how they got to where they are and how they became homeless,” said Bailey, another senior from Scott County. “It’s not the typical, ‘I don’t want to work’ story, and I thought it was very interesting how each person got to where they were and how they were trying to get out of homelessness. But also, some of them just didn’t care.”

“I thought it was good for nurses because if you’re not used to seeing homeless people or listening to their story, you may have a certain idea of why they’re homeless and you might even have a bias against them,” Bailey added. “But then, when you actually take the time to hear their stories and listen to why they’re homeless, you open up your heart to them more. I feel like, as a nurse, you have to be able to do that. You have to be able to see more than you’re used to. That way you can treat everyone the same.”

Students visiting the Knox Area Rescue Mission are under the supervision of a TWU faculty member, and in the case of Grace and Bailey, preparing for their desired career path, Emergency Room Nurse.

Additionally, TWU-Fort Sanders Nursing ran a student-directed sock drive, giving out 300 pairs of socks at Knox Area Rescue Ministries. “I personally want to testify how grateful they were for brand new socks,” said TWU Professor Kathy Smith in an email to students and faculty. “Witnessing the eagerness to grab a pair of socks reminded me of how even a pair of socks can show kindness and compassion.”

TWU nursing students also volunteered this semester at Knox Mobile Meals, the local Meals on Wheels program, which serves seniors with meal delivery. One of the groups was joined by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs on the day they served.

With hospital staffs stretched thin, TWU students and faculty also volunteered their time to administer flu vaccines, allowing medical staffs to remain at their posts in hospitals.

More opportunities are being presented to the students of TWU-Fort Sanders Nursing on a regular basis, as community and hospital needs continue to remain high. Nursing students and faculty continue to be committed to making their community a healthier one, all while preparing for their upcoming nursing careers, the university said in a press release.

This article has been edited from the original version appearing on the Tennessee Wesleyan University website.

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