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Arkansas Nurses Take Health Care to the Homeless

An innovative community nursing program in Fayetteville, Ark., is being called such a success that it may be expanded to other communities around the state.

Nursing students at the University of Arkansas (UA) have been holding health fairs for two semesters at the city's homeless shelter, doing blood pressure and blood sugar checks, testing for HIV, and providing a lot of information about women's health care, affordable insurance and the proper use of medications.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were more than 2,500 homeless people in Arkansas last year, with more than 200 being veterans.

Susan Patton, assistant director of undergraduate programs for UA, told local newspaper reporters that the students do a lot of one-on-one consultations, talking to the patients to get a better understanding of their health care needs.

"Without understanding what kind of home environment they come from, it's easy to be judgmental: 'Well, you just need to eat better,' or 'You just need to get more rest,'" she states. "But understanding the circumstances that patients live in helps nurses give more realistic advice."

Patton says UA's community nursing program is modeled after similar programs in Boston and Los Angeles. The students focus on issues that are prevalent with the homeless, including sunburn and insect bites, hydration, proper use of medication and taking care of their feet.

During this past semester, the students used social media to hold a shoe drive for their patients.

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