BCC Nursing Students Learn Empathy Through Community-Based Project

November 18, 2022

Dublin, NC – Students in the BCC nursing program, in collaboration with several community partners, spent the day participating in a community simulation project where they were faced with many of the same disparities members of our elderly population face when accessing health care, food, medication, and transportation. The project required the students to analyze Medicare benefits, and reflect on healthcare disparities and resources that are available within the community.

Marcia deAndrade, a Nursing Instructor at BCC, said that this project was born from an experience that she had as a registered nurse in the community while discharging a patient to go home. “I gave them the prescription for insulin the doctor provided. The patient looked at me, thanked me for the script, but told me they were unable to afford the medication.” deAndrade noted that this community project is about empathy and finding resources to bridge gaps for patients who experience disparities with healthcare, not just locally, but at a state and national level as well. “Older adults are having to make difficult decisions in regard to paying an electric bill or filling a prescription. I want our students to walk away from this experience being able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and understand that a patient presenting to the Emergency Department for the third time in two months may not be a compliance issue, but a lack of resources for their medications.”

Prior to class on Thursday, students were required to have a scheduled appointment with a medical provider in order to have their medications filled. The students had to research medical providers in the area that accepted their insurance and arrange transportation with the college’s version of B.A.R.T.S. in order to make it to their appointments on time. When the students arrived, they received a packet with their Medicare plan, which may or may not have included coverage for their required medications, a bill for their rent, electricity, and water, and a grocery list of staple items they would need for the week. Each student was also provided an income based on social security benefits and some students received an allotment of Food Stamp benefits. The list of medications that needed to be filled was chosen and researched based on the insurance that they have, with each medication costing what their insurance covers (Tier 1,2,3,4,5 drug). Some students received vouchers for medication while others didn’t.

Dr. Michelle Norris, Director of Nursing and Allied Health, watched as the students walked down the hall with their walkers and canes and loaded public transit. She stated that “excellence in nursing practice required us to go beyond teaching skills and theory; we must also prepare our graduates to appreciate the human experience of the community we care for. Ms. deAndrade’s work is certainly an example of creativity and innovation to help us accomplish this!”

Because of limited seating with public transit, not all students were able to leave at one time. Transportation was available on a first-come-first-served basis, which meant several students were forced to reschedule appointments or find a different medical provider. Students that were unable to get an appointment with public transportation in the morning, completed a reflective journal on being left behind, differing insurance, social security, and other resources that are available. They also created a presentation identifying disparities in healthcare in this area and ways that we can address them. The presentation will be presented to their peers as well as the Bladen County Health Director.

Thank you to the Bladen County Health Department, Dickerson’s Pharmacy, Food Lion of Elizabethtown, Four County Electric Membership Corporation, the Town of Elizabethtown, and UNC Health Southeastern for helping make this community-based project a huge success.