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"If You Can Assess a Community, You Can Assess a Patient" – Students will use community evaluation skills to improve patient care

Posted: Sept. 6, 2016

When student nurses Liana Lo Chau and Mayra Romero were named fellows of the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement (LCCE)–Austin City Hall Fellows program they expected to get a chance to interact with a variety of people from different socio-economic backgrounds. What they didn’t expect was how impactful the experience would be on their chosen career.

Student nurses Mayra Romero and Liana Lo Chau

As members of two teams made up of UT Austin students from a variety of disciplines, Liana and Mayra, both seniors when they began the 2015–16 program, went to work with Restore Rundberg, a community-driven partnership between the local community, government, higher education and public safety groups.

The first order of the day was to engage in discussions with residents and make neighborhood assessments to identify key problems and assets and then determine solutions and strategies for the community. The two student nurses approached the project from a public health posture, wanting to connect residents with health and social services available in the area and involve them in making decisions and taking the actions necessary to improve where they live.

“After making our assessments and meeting with key leaders to determine the community’s needs, we set out to identify local social and health care resources and make sure residents were aware of them,” Mayra said. “Our team decided to create a guide listing all the resources available to the community and then disseminate it.”

Liana’s team focused on improving lives through civic engagement.

“As a student nurse, I understand that public health encompasses more than access to health care services,” she said. “It’s important for residents to empower themselves through the voting process, becoming well-informed about candidates and issues, and learning how to register to vote and then actually voting.”

After graduation, Liana will work in an emergency department at an Austin hospital.

“A lot of public health is being able to look upstream,” she said. “Preventing a disease happening at the community level will definitely make an impact at the individual level. Being an Austin City Hall fellow was a great opportunity, and, as a result, I’m confident I can help anyone who walks into the ED, regardless of their socio-economic background.”

This is the third year that students from the UT Austin School of Nursing have taken part in the LCCE–Austin City Hall Fellows program that encourages community service. Part of this year’s goal was to develop innovative solutions to the needs of the residents that are sustainable over time, rather than short-term fixes.

Restore Rundberg is about neighborhoods helping neighborhoods and is supported by a grant of $1 million over a three-year period from the U.S. Department of Justice to revitalize the community. Residents in the Rundberg corridor have led the revitalization effort, and recently a representative of the project reported that violent crime has dropped 38 percent and property crime by 11 percent since the work began.

“Working with Restore Rundberg gave us a basic groundwork for what nurses need to be able to do no matter where they work,” Mayra said. “If you can assess a community, you can assess a patient.”

Both Liana and Mayra graduated with a bachelors of science in nursing May 2016.

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