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Rivier University community health nursing offers healing and hope

As part of their course of study, Rivier University undergraduate nursing students provide community health services to the Greater Nashua community.

As part of their course of study, Rivier University undergraduate nursing students provide community health services to the Greater Nashua community. Addressing the needs of populations that often have limited access to medical care—the homeless, those suffering with addictions, the homebound, and the incarcerated—Rivier nursing faculty and students provide services in a variety of locations throughout the state.

“Rivier’s community healthcare outreach is central to our nursing students’ education and our mission of transforming hearts and minds to serve the world,” says Dr. Paula Williams, Dean of the Division of Nursing and Health Professions.

“Caring for our neighbors in need, especially the poor and powerless, is more than skills-building for our students; it’s an opportunity to share in the human experience.”

The University’s Department of Nursing and Health Professions has developed strong relationships with a number of organizations to provide care an engage students with their future patients in multiple care settings. Organizations include The Day Café, Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, local Public Health departments, Concord Men’s Prison, Visiting Nurse Associations, and hospice facilities. Faculty and students visit these locations on a regular basis and provide services to help prevent disease and promote healthy behaviors.

“When we go out into the community, we are caring for every person within our community, all individuals with no judgment passed,” shares Dr. Judi O’Hara, Rivier’s Director of Undergraduate Nursing Programs. “The Community Health class plays a very important role in the education of our nursing students.”

During weekly footcare clinics at The Day Café in Nashua, a gathering space for the homeless, Rivier nurses and students wash visitors’ feet, check circulation, and treat wounds. They also provide new, clean and dry socks as part of their care. The socks were donated by Bombas sock company when alumna and instructor Kera Kelly, RN reached out to the organization. Bombas’ mission is “to provide comfort for all.”

“For a person experiencing homelessness, their feet are often their primary mode of transportation,” says Kelly. “They are so important but often forgotten and neglected as survival is more important than the holes in their shoes and blisters on their feet.”

And for her nursing students, “the goal is that they are immersed in this experience, in a different setting than they’ve ever been in before, and are providing dignified, compassionate care.”

The National Institutes of Health recognizes community health workers as “frontline agents of change, helping to reduce health disparities in underserved communities.” This highlights the importance of community health services to not only the individuals and populations served, but to the state’s overall public health.

Rivier University educates hundreds of nurses each year in degree programs from the associate to the doctoral level. Rivier nurses bring top-level care and compassionate hearts to the New England healthcare workforce and beyond. To learn more about the The Day Café, read the Rivier Today article from the Fall 2023 edition and visit The Day Café website.