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Rivier Hosts Community Action Poverty Simulation

“I honestly didn’t know what to do,” says Ashish Ghising ’20, a Rivier nursing student participating in the simulation.

“I went to Social Services to talk to them because I didn’t know what you could do after you got evicted.”

More than 85 Rivier Nursing and Public Health students, faculty, and staff, along with representatives from local civic and community leaders, participated in a Community Action Poverty Simulation aimed at increasing awareness of poverty issues. The simulation helps students understand the day-to-day complexities and frustrations of living in poverty.

“Nearly 100,000 New Hampshire residents are living at or below federal poverty level, according to the 2017 census,” says Dr. Paula Williams, Dean of the Division of Nursing and Health Professions. “A better understanding of the challenges facing their patients and clients will prepare our students to better serve them and achieve positive outcomes.”

Participants in the three-hour exercise experienced a month in poverty by facing a variety of challenging, yet typical circumstances. Students assumed the roles of family members; different family groups included grandparents raising grandchildren, working parents, single parent households, elderly adults, and young adults caring for underage siblings.

During the simulation, participants role-played the lives of low-income families. Some were Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, some were disabled, and others were senior citizens on Social Security. Each family was given information explaining their unique circumstances and was tasked with providing food, shelter, childcare, and other necessities by accessing community resources. They interacted with human services agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers, and others.

Students taking part in the simulation will be working in community health settings throughout the state this spring semester; this simulation was designed to provide insight on some of the patient populations they will encounter.

“With a greater awareness of poverty’s impact, we can more effectively address the issues in our community,” said Emily Sheff, Partnership Liaison for Project REEP (Registered Nurse Enhanced Education for Primary Care) at Rivier. Project REEP is preparing highly skilled nurses to enter careers in community-based, primary care settings and to work to the fullest extent of their education and training within the primary care team.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is a component of the $2.04 million Nursing Education Grant awarded to Rivier University in 2018 by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The grant aims to “achieve a sustainable primary care nursing workforce equipped with the competencies necessary to address pressing national public health issues.”

More information on the Rivier University’s Nursing and Health Professions programs is available at or by contacting the Office of Admissions at or (603) 897-8507. Rivier University, located in Nashua, New Hampshire, offers degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate, and doctoral levels with on-campus and online options.