“Thank you for letting us serve you,” said Lauren Newhouse, a senior undergraduate nursing student, as she puts a man’s feet into a bath of warm water. Newhouse is completing her community health clinical rotation at SafeHouse Outreach. She is part of an army of more than 500 Georgia State University nursing and nurse practitioner students providing care to individuals throughout Atlanta and the state.
For more than 10 years, the Georgia State Byrdine F. Lewis College of Nursing and Health Professions students have served SafeHouse. Their work is one small part of the 35,000 unpaid hours of service Lewis College students provide to health care annually.
SafeHouse cares for some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable citizens: homeless men and women. Located on the edge of the Georgia State downtown campus, it provides weekday meal services, U.S. mail distribution, clothing, daytime shelter from the weather and health care.
Twice a week, nursing students give foot care and take blood pressure readings for the SafeHouse clients, called “friends.” Student nurses use foot care time for health evaluations and interpersonal connections. Foot care is a way to welcome clients, though many are reluctant to take off their socks and shoes. In return, nursing students gain valuable patient care skills.
“This was a very humbling experience,” said Newhouse. “I realized that these are often the same clients I would be caring for had I been at Grady. The location offered an intimacy with clients you can’t typically attain in the hospital, and in the end, I feel that the individuals we served actually served us.”
The nursing students also researched and provided pandemic-related resources for the SafeHouse friends. Living without proper shelter makes marginalized individuals particularly vulnerable to COVID.
Dr. Cheru Atraga, a Georgia State clinical assistant nursing professor and a family nurse practitioner, coordinates the students in the community health rotation, working with various community health partners. Students work with developmentally disabled adults, senior adults living in a retirement community, or women battling dual challenges of addiction and homelessness. But SafeHouse Outreach is particularly close to his heart.
“These nursing students, led by Lauren Newhouse and Meghan McKinney, are extremely passionate about the community they serve,” Dr. Atraga said. “Georgia State is surrounded by need, and SafeHouse is very close to campus. The nursing students provide an important service, and a clinic is a good way for Georgia State to aid the community.”
Above, Dr. Atraga with undergraduate nursing students prepare for their work at SafeHouse. Photo by Meg Buscema