To allow students to learn about wellness outside of the classroom and to positively impact the lives of youth in Regina, the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing has partnered with Street Culture Project Inc.
In this program, nursing students gain a greater understanding of community wellness by interacting with vulnerable members of society. Students in this program are able to connect with and empower youth who may be experiencing mental health issues.
Erika Kendrick, a fourth-year nursing student, shares her experience working in the program.
“This opportunity opened my eyes to how valuable and vital community nursing is to vulnerable populations and overall community health. Since some of the first lectures in my first year of nursing, I have been taught about an ‘upstream’ approach to health care, which is the idea of promoting and protecting health so that people do not require acute care down the road. The experience I had with Street Culture allowed me to put this theory into practice,” Kendrick said, in an email to the Sheaf.
The Street Culture Project primarily serves youth from the ages of five to 25 by providing housing and community programs. Nursing students work with youth from the shelters or group homes throughout the week and come together on Tuesday nights for planned programming with youth from 16 to 18 years of age.
Tuesday night programming is a designated session where one nursing student, with the support of their peers, will co-ordinate planned activities to promote youth wellness and empowerment. To begin the session, nursing students teach the youth attendees how to prepare healthy meals. Then there is a session about proper health practices on a particular topic, followed by a social activity.
Tanner Ryerson, a third-year nursing student, describes the Tuesday night activities and services that nursing students provide for the Street Culture Project, which include meal preparation and lifestyle education on nutrition, safe sex, relationships, physical activity, mental health, personal hygiene and resumé writing.
“We worked with the programs that help to transition youth from foster and group homes and even those who are involved with the justice system, like young offenders, to living independently. During all of these duties, we were also responsible for getting to know the youth and being good examples for them, as they did not always have that in their lives,” Ryerson said, in an email to the Sheaf.
Nursing students are required to pursue a mental health practicum of 156 hours during the semester, and the Street Culture Project allows students to work with youth for approximately 12 hours a week. Nursing students in their third and fourth-year can apply to the Street Culture Project if they have completed the course NURS 308, which provides information about mental health theory.
Kendrick believes that her time spent with the Street Culture Project has well equipped her to pursue work with youth in the future.
“I feel extremely lucky to have had this experience with Street Culture, as it was a beautiful combination of a mental health and community health rotation. As I am currently completing my community rotation at a middle school, I feel that I am better prepared to work with the youth than my peers who did not have this experience. Moreover, I believe that my experience with Street Culture has shown me that there is more than one way to provide mental health care from a nursing perspective,” Kendrick said.
Ryerson believes that the program is valuable because it offers the chance for nursing students to understand the people that they will serve throughout their career.
“I would say I learned to address my own stereotypes and prejudices and overcome them by getting to know people who I would otherwise have little to no contact with outside of a hospital. I think that the knowledge I have gained about how the community we live in has such a great affect on our health will serve me well to become a more compassionate, safer and competent nurse.”
Photo: Street Culture / Supplied