Nursing Students Provide Needed Services to Low-Income Residents in Kentucky



This past October, Beckie Retzer, assistant professor of nursing at Southern Adventist University, led 17 of her students on the third biannual service trip to the small town of Manchester, Kentucky, as part of her Population and Community Health Nursing course.

For each trip, Retzer works with AdventHealth and the local Healthy Homes Initiative (HHI). The AdventHealth hospital in Manchester serves as the only AdventHealth Global Missions Footprint in the United States and works with HHI, which provides residents with comprehensive home assessments, repairs, and evaluations. 

During the trip, students tour a rural hospital and visit the homes of patients they treat. “We think it’s very important for nurses to not just see the patient in the bed, but to understand the home environment from which they’ve come,” explains Retzer. Students observe and aid in each of HHI’s three steps. They assess for issues such as outdated food, poor lighting, and adequate grab bars. Then, they help fix the issues before evaluating completed homes to confirm their new safety. 

Jehlyssa Kennedy, senior nursing major, was one of the students on the trip. Kennedy learned critical skills, explaining, “As a nurse, I think this will definitely help me with patient advocacy and communication.” Many of the homes students visited were not Christian, creating a ministry opportunity. She shared that it was an opportunity for “incorporating God…without being overwhelming.” 

As a new addition to the itinerary, students put on a health fair. “It was a great experience,” says Retzer. “I definitely want to pursue that again.” 

Kennedy describes the health fair as, “a big learning experience for us.” Students checked patients’ height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, and more. Then, they worked with each patient to find solutions to the challenges they face. To generate interest, students went door to door to invite community members to the event. Kennedy shares that students were able to connect with people they met at a local rally, including a man who felt discouraged about his health. He came to the health fair and learned about options to create a healthier lifestyle. 

“We praise the Lord for the continued safety of the students, as well as the experiences and opportunities they get as a result of the trip,” says Retzer. “It allows the student nurses to have a broader understanding of the communities they serve, so they can give a higher quality of care to future patients.”

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