• February 28, 2020

Texas Tech, MC students experience poverty simulation - Odessa American: Education

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Texas Tech, MC students experience poverty simulation

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Posted: Friday, January 24, 2020 5:07 pm

Fifty-three students participated at Texas Tech’s new academic building in downtown Odessa.

Texas Tech health sciences Simulation Center Director Melissa Leal said the program was developed by the Missouri Community Action Network.

“Basically what we do is we take students and we place them in a simulated month of living in poverty, so they have to provide for their families and go to different agencies and ask for help, make sure their families are fed, that they have medication, a roof over their head, utilities — all sorts of things that you have to provide for your family to make sure that they’re OK,” Leal said. “But they’re also going to have limited funds. They’re going to have limited transportation. … Some people will have jobs and some people will not; some people will start out as homeless; some people will not; so they have to learn how to navigate that environment,” Leal added.

The goal is to make students aware of what their patients might be dealing with on a day-to-day basis, other than medical problems. Leal said it also gives the students information on how to access social services, child care, medication or transportation in the area. The idea is to make students aware of how many people locally, in the state and nation live in poverty, she said.

“They come in and they get placed into family groups and then the family groups have a set (amount) of money and probably appliances or valuables and they have that to start with. They have to work through four 15-minute weeks to try and make sure that their families get everything they need,” Leal said.

Resources are determined by the Missouri Community Action Network, which developed the simulation.

“When they come in, they’ll have a name tag that gets assigned to them and they’re that person for the day so they have to act like the 15 year old, or they have to act like the single parent, or the elderly (person) who lives by themselves so they’re immersed into that role and they have to make sure that they gain everything that that person needs to survive,” Leal said. 

In the debriefing process, Leal said they will discuss what they learned.

“And a lot of times the students are unaware that people have to go through so much hardship. It really is an eye-opener for them, so they have more compassion and empathy at the end toward people who are living in poverty,” Leal said.

Sharon Cannon, Texas Tech health sciences professor, Medical Center Hospital regional dean endowed chair and co-director of the Center of Excellence in Evidence-Based Practice, said it gives students a chance to find out what it’s like when you don’t have the resources to buy your medication and you’re trying to figure out if you need to eat that day or take their medication.

Lauren Cano, a Texas Tech registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing student, has gone through one of the simulations previously. In her fourth semester and expected to graduate in May, Cano is interning at Medical Center Hospital, Odessa Regional Medical Center Hospital and Midland Memorial Hospital.

“When I did my poverty sim, I was a 16-year old pregnant high schooler and my boyfriend through the sim was doing drugs and was a drug dealer, so it was really interesting to see being thrown in jail as a 16-year-old pregnant girl just kind of seeing when parents aren’t able to pick up their kids because my family could never get the money to come bail me out. And seeing the kids being brought back in to like CPS (Child Protective Services) and just kind of the constant back and forth of being pulled in and out of the system, it was a really interesting perspective,” Cano said.

She added that the experience gave her a chance to see how prevalent poverty was in this area.

“I don’t think a lot of our students really understand what it’s like to live in poverty and without actually taking them into places, this is probably a really good learning experience for them to find out what it’s like,” Cannon said.

Emily Tarin is in the licensed vocational nurse to registered nurse transition program at Midland College. For the simulation, her name is Francisca Fuentes. She’s 14 and living in a single-parent home.

“Our father left us with $10. … Mom is unemployed; brother is a dropout who has issues with drugs; and apparently has just been arrested,” Tarin said of the simulation. “At this point, my mother is currently trying to find assistance to make the minimum to at least make sure we don’t get evicted, while on top of that to try to figure out how we’re going to get our brother out of jail.”

In the simulation, when Tarin got home from school her mother wasn’t home yet so she wasn’t able to tell her the news about her brother.

“It really is reality,” said Tarin, who grew up with a single mom.

“I hope it’s an eye opener for everybody. I think this is a very interesting and fun opportunity,” Tarin said.

She said you could already see the stress on her simulated mother’s face.

Tarin added that she thinks it will help because there are a wide variety of patients that nurses see.

Curt Demel, who is in the associate degree nursing to RN program at MC, was portraying Franco Fuentes, the 17-year-old brother of Tarin’s Francisca Fuentes. He was put in jail for dealing drugs.

“It’s pretty neat,” Demel said. “I was thrown in jail there in the first week, so I pretty much just hung out there the whole time. Now, I’m applying for a job,” he said.

“I think it was kind of interesting for the fact that we’re pretty much starting out with nothing and (it’s) kind of a different experience starting out with nothing,” Demel said.

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