Georgetown University Students Dedicate Their Studies to Refugees
This fall the Suburban Washington Resettlement Center’s (SWRC) Special Needs Health Program and School of Nursing Program at Georgetown University embark on the second semester of an exciting partnership. The partnership offers the SWRC and International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Special Needs Program as a clinical site for the nursing school’s Public Health Nursing course. Ten students will complete their semester-long public health clinical rotation, supervised jointly by a Georgetown nursing instructor and the IRC’s Special Needs Care Coordinator.
In October 2010, the IRC Maryland’s Public Health Teams initiated the Special Needs Health Program to assist newly arrived refugees and asylees experiencing prolonged medical conditions such as physical and mental disability, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and untreated or complex chronic diseases. Serious health conditions are often compounded by difficult living conditions overseas and lack of access to necessary medical care and can be further exacerbated by barriers to healthcare access in the U.S. The program focuses on three primary objectives: intensive medical care coordination, ensuring timely access to culturally competent care, and client empowerment.
The Georgetown Nursing Students will act as community health workers whose contributions, time, and energy directly support the Special Needs Program’s ability to bridge gaps between the medical needs of refugees and service providers to ensure timely, culturally-appropriate healthcare. The students will work in pairs of two and will be assigned to five Special Needs families whom they will work with over the course of the semester. In addition to individual family home visits, the group will conduct a community needs assessment, coordinate a community health fair, and development health education material specific to refugee health needs. This semester the five nursing pairs will work with a diverse group of families from Bhutan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Burma, and Iraq. Over the course of the semester the students will focus on the knowledge and skills their families need and want to learn in order to successfully participate in their own healthcare. Each nursing pair will develop long term and short term goals for their families in a comprehensive care plan. Much of their work will focus on health education related to existing health conditions, support in managing an intensive health appointment schedule, and skills necessary for families to independently navigate the U.S. healthcare system. While the complexity of special health concerns can be overwhelming, it is essential that refugees feel capable of managing their health care needs so that they may begin their new and healthy life in America.
The IRC Silver Spring would also like to welcome 15 new volunteers from Georgetown Law. During fall semester these volunteers will be paired with newly arrived refugee families through our ‘Adopt a Family’ mentoring program, helping them adjust to life in America. We look forward to hearing about their experiences mentoring and the difference they will make in the lives of our refugee families. Welcome!