Students in Southern Oregon get an Eye Opening Experience with the I-CAN Project
By Lee Lewis-Husk
“I’ll never assume anything about my patients again,” says Kayla Culp, a student at the OHSU School of Nursing’s Ashland campus after a poignant encounter with a woman who had uncontrolled diabetes. “I gave her all this information about healthy eating, only to find out that she didn’t know how to cook fruits and vegetables.”
Culp was part of a student team that spent a term meeting people where they live, including homeless shelters, to identify barriers that prevent individuals from accessing health care. The teams, which consist of nursing, pharmacy, dental and medical students, are sponsored by I-CAN (Interprofessional Care Access Network), a federally funded collaboration among academic programs, community service agencies and health care providers.
OHSU’s nursing school heads the project, which is in its second of three years. I-CAN teams have worked in Portland’s Old Town, west Medford and next year will be in southeast Portland. The interprofessional student teams are guided by a nurse faculty-in- residence, a faculty member who works with a particular neighborhood over time.
“I had an ah-ha moment when I realized that as a nurse, I have to start with the basics, such as making sure a patient has a stove and the knowledge to boil a potato,” Culp says.
“We focus on what the client wants to work on, visiting with them weekly to identify the most pressing needs,” Voss says.
In Medford, student teams have helped clients write resumes, learn about managing chronic illness, the appropriate use of the ER and navigating the health care system.
The payoff for students is profound, according to Voss. “Not only do students get a glimpse of a patient’s life outside a traditional health care setting, but they get to know community resources – food banks, help for paying electric bills and where to find bus money – and also how to work in a team with other health disciplines,” she says.
I-CAN Project Director Peggy Wros, Ph.D., R.N., senior associate dean for student affairs and diversity, says the project builds on the school’s statewide infrastructure and is unique among other interprofessional projects around the country due to its community focus. “We’re using a neighborhood model to teach students about population health,”she says. “Students get to learn about what life is really like for some people. My reward comes when I see the look in student eyes, and I know they’re never going to forget. This experience will impact their practices forever.”
Wros says the school is already working on sustainability when the first grant cycle ends in 2015.