Nursing students offer screenings at shelter; community welcome

A long-standing collaboration is back as Jackson College Nursing students come to the Jackson Interfaith Shelter to provide health services. Nursing Instructor Laura Thomas was once a Jackson College student who took trips to the Interfaith Shelter as a community service. COVID put a pause on the collaboration.

“Due to COVID things had to kind of change and since those restrictions have been lifted CEO Steve Castle reached out to me at Jet Jam earlier this year and said ‘hey, I’d love to connect.’ And I said, ‘that’s perfect because I want to connect with you’ and now we have the students back here,” Nursing Instructor Laura Thomas said.

A group of four to five nursing students stationed at two tables conducts health screenings by taking blood pressure from community members.

“We have this free opportunity for people to come in and have that blood pressure checked, there’s also a follow-up conversation where the students explain what your blood pressure means and here are some follow-up steps that you may want to take based on the numbers,” said Jackson Interfaith Shelter Director Atalie Schwartz.

Jackson resident Mikayla Town who says she has a family history of blood pressure issues was one such resident to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I’m thankful they do provide a service,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t get the opportunity to get theirs checked and we all deserve to know what our health is.”

Second-year nursing student Heather Pustay says it has been an experience meeting the community.

“I think regular screenings are a must-do. This is a great resource in downtown Jackson,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve been to the Interfaith Shelter and I was pleasantly surprised. I walked in the doors and they were excited to receive these resources. It’s a great asset and I’m glad we’re able to help them.”

Twenty-two people were scheduled to come in during the past visit. The appointments take approximately 10 minutes.

Laura believes this provides her students an opportunity to help a vulnerable population.

“As nurses, they will be caring for clients who may be homeless and having visited the Interfaith Shelter helps give them perspective and the ability to educate and provide information to those clients,” she said. “People without homes often do not have the ability or opportunity to keep up with preventative health care. Not only are the nursing students gaining experience and knowledge, but they are providing a much-needed service to this community.”

This is bigger than a health screening according to Schwartz.

“A couple of the students actually popped up to learn more about the shelter, which part of what this is about,” Schwartz said. “It’s not just taking the blood pressure, it’s about the community they’re serving. I love that the students wanted to jump in and gain more information and I think they appreciated learning some of the different information we had to share.”

The next health screening will take place at 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on March 14. The screenings are open to the public at no cost. The Jackson Interfaith Shelter is located at 414 S. Blackstone Street.