Science / Technology and Health

Nursing Students Help Improve Access to Wound Care Supplies for the Homeless

July 29, 2020

Pictured left to right: Sarah Dean, Jen Tate from God’s Lil Acres, and Brad Fifield holding wound care kits.
Pictured left to right: Sarah Dean, Jen Tate from God’s Lil Acres, and Brad Fifield holding wound care kits.

Nursing students Sarah Dean, ’20,’14, and Brad Fifield, ’20, received a grant from King County Nurses Association to pursue their project, “Navigating Wound Care for the Homeless" through the College of Nursing's Public Health Internship program.

As students, Sarah Dean, '20, '14, and Brad Fifield, '20, took part in the College of Nursing’s Public Health Internship (PHI)* program. This innovative program, which launched in fall 2019, pairs junior- and senior-level undergraduates with community agencies for 30 hours each quarter over the course of a year. This immersive community-centered learning experience introduces students to public health nursing and enables them to think critically about health advocacy beyond the bedside. In its inaugural year, PHI placed 81 students in 19 community health and social service agencies, with a total of 64 interprofessional mentors. Next year, 166 students will be matched with PHI service at local health and social service agencies.

Dean and Fifield were both interested in working with homeless individuals and were placed at God’s Li’l Acre (GLA), a drop-in center in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood. GLA is a collaborative effort of the Seattle Mennonite Church (SMC) and the Lake City Partners Ending Homeless, a group that has fostered several programs that work to provide shelter and resources to individuals experiencing homelessness or housing instability. The College of Nursing has had a longstanding partnership with the SMC, providing opportunities for nursing students to engage in services with homeless individuals and families since 2008.

During the internship at GLA, both Dean and Fifield noticed a significant need for appropriate wound care. “We saw chronic non-healing, acute and infected wounds,” Dean says. “Based on research and interviews, we found that this issue was pervasive and multifaceted. There is a litany of risk factors that increase homeless individuals’ risk for acute or chronic wound and an even longer lists of barriers and inequities that prevent them from accessing appropriate wound care.

“ … Our main goal is to establish a system of providing accessible, clean and appropriate wound care supplies to individuals living through homelessness in the Lake City Area.” 

Dean and Fifield implemented their first round of wound care kits in May. Each kit is equipped with dressing components, including waste bags, tips for old dressing removal, educational handouts with simple instructions for care, signs and symptoms of infection and local health care resources. They chose a durable, waterproof container (insulated lunch bags) for the kits to keep materials intact and dry. They plan to continue project operations throughout the summer.

“Through partnership and community buy in, we hope this project continues beyond our time at Seattle University and becomes a mainstay at GLA,” Dean says. “We hope this project makes a sustainable impact on this organization, promotes health care literacy, community well-being and empowers individuals to take charge of their health.” 

Want to know more about Dean and Fifield? Check out this Q&A:

Where did you grow up and what brought you to Seattle U?

Fifield: I am originally from New Hampshire. What brought me to Seattle U was the unique College of Nursing program that emphasized community service and outreach.

Dean: I grew up in Coeur d’Alene, ID, and moved to Seattle to attend Seattle U after being recruited to play for the women’s soccer team—Go Redhawks! I graduated with a degree in General Science, with an emphasis in Chemistry and Biology. Following a career in critical care research, I decided to return to Seattle U to pursue my BSN.

What drew you to pursue your BSN at Seattle U?

Fifield: Prior to moving to Seattle for my bachelor’s degree, I was living in San Diego working toward an associate’s degree in pre-nursing. I knew I wanted to stay on the West Coast and found that Seattle U had the values I was looking for in a nursing program as far as engaging with the local community, emphasizing care and compassion for patients and encouraging the importance of constant self-care and reflection.

Dean: As a graduate of Seattle U, I knew its mission and teaching philosophy were centered on the commitment of providing a holistic education—one that empowers, pushes and supports its students to become leaders dedicated to social justice and enacting change. Knowing this, I was drawn to return to the Seattle U campus to pursue my BSN. I knew its mission would shape the type of nurse I wanted to become—a nurse devoted to community-centered advocacy, compassion and service. 

What are your career goals?

Fifield: My career goal is to work as a cardiac ICU nurse for several years and then apply to Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist  CRNA school. Throughout that time, I would also like to take what I have learned from our community health class and apply it to future projects and volunteer opportunities that can benefit my local community.

Dean: While I am still open to exploring the many fields of nursing, my goal is to continue working in the community hospital setting, ultimately focusing on emergency and critical care medicine. I aspire to return to graduate school to pursue a DNP program of Adult Gerontology Acute Care and someday return to clinical research. 

*The PHI is pending the approval of the Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC)