The October 2016 meeting of the Health Disparities Research Group (HDRG), featured a team of faculty and students from the University of South Alabama (USA) who shared their experiences of as founders and participants in Project Homeless Connect(PHC). This annual one day even provides various resources including medical services, legal services, dental and vision screenings, and access to housing assistance to homeless individuals and families in Mobile and Baldwin counties. The team from USA coordinates and provides all medical screenings and clinical services offered at the event.
Dr. Margaret Moore Nadler, USA College of Nursing, provided an overview of the experience of implementing PHC in Mobile and also the process through which the interprofessional team from the university became involved. The event began as a multi-agency and university partnership led by the Mobile-Baldwin Continuum of Care Board and Housing First (a local non-profit agency focused on advocacy and community collaboration to end homelessness). The original focus of the collaboration was to develop standards for counting the number of homeless individuals in the area in order to comply with Federal regulations that require “Point in Time” count every January. Through this collaborative process, the group learned that Birmingham and other cities across the nation put on annual service events often called Project Homeless Connect through which they provide a one day, one-stop opportunity for homeless individuals and families to access needed services and assistance under one roof. The Mobile collaborative group realized that such an event would be a great way to serve while also meeting the mandate of conducting the annual census.
During their presentation to HDRG, members of the interprofessional team focused on three key aspects of USA’s participation in PHC.
Benefits for the USA team
- Working in an interprofessional team provides opportunities for developing understanding across disciplines and build relationships.
- Through the service learning opportunities of PHC students are able to strengthen their cultural competency skills and are often challenged to expand their capacity for compassion and empathy. In demonstrating this point, Caleb Butler, a social work student, shared that while he was serving as an advocate at PHC he met someone who was his age, shared a similar family background, and came from the same hometown, yet he(Caleb), was a university student, while the other person was homeless. Caleb explained that through this experience his understanding of homelessness broadened, he developed more empathy, and he realized that anyone had the potential to become homeless.
- Reciprocal learning between faculty and students occurs through the process of feedback and evaluation. Students from the College of Allied Health Professions, College of Medicine, and College of Nursing run the medical clinic with backup support from faculty and community providers. After each PHC the teams debrief and discuss what worked and what didn’t in order to help all involved improve their skills and to make plans and adjustments for the future.
Improvement and Development
- After reviewing three years of participation in Project Homeless Connect, the team is developing a strategy for moving forward and improving care.
- A 3-5 year strategic plan with the goal of expanding the health clinic portion of the PHC as a quarterly event. They plan to seek corporate sponsorships and grants to support this goal.
- SMART objectives have been developed around providing better care, creating better health, and lowering costs.
- Each area of clinical service will be evaluated to recognize what works and opportunities for improvement.
- Marketing and advocacy strategies being developed to raise the profile of Project Homeless Connect both on campus and in the broader community. New partnerships are also being sought to enhance services offered.
Data Collection and Research
- Through the forms that clients in Project Homeless Connect complete, an abundance of data is being collected and compiled in REDCap so that it can be that can be analyzed for trends and to inform performance improvement efforts. The goal is to have an accessible Homeless Health longitudinal data set that can be accessed by students, faculty and community partners who participate in Project Homeless Connect.
- The team has identified research opportunities from this project:
- Community Based Participatory Research
- Readiness to change and patient referrals to community agencies
- Use of motivational interviewing
- Students participating in PHC: Attitudes towards the people who are homeless and now working
- Needs assessment of USA student homelessness or risk factors for homelessness
- Influence of interprofessional education collaboration
The presentation team consisted of:
- Dr. Margaret Moore Nadler, College of Nursing
- Dr. Kathy Bydalek, College of Nursing
- Ms. Clista Clanton, Biomedical library
- Dr. Pam Johnson,College of Nursing
- Ms. Mary Meyer, College of Nursing
- Mr. Caleb Butler, Social Work Student in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
- Mr. William Crittenden, third year medical student in the College of Medicine
Download the presentation.
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