Haven Highlight: How You Care

From left to right: Audrey Fero (‘23) and Carly Elliot (‘23)

February 20, 2024
Opportunity Northeast

Below is a transcript of an interview between Center for Community Engagement’s Sammy Rich and Carly Elliot (‘23) and Audrey Fero (‘23) – two senior nursing students who spent their last semester volunteering at Gonzaga Family Haven – to learn more about why they chose the Haven, their experience there, and how they intend to apply the lessons learned into their care practice.

Sammy: How long have you both been working at Gonzaga Family Haven?

Audrey: We started there in early October. We did our practicum in the hospital, which is where we got to choose what area we wanted to do for all of September. Then starting in October, we both chose Gonzaga Family Haven.

Sammy: What inspired you to choose the Haven?

Carly: I like the family aspect of it. I think a lot of the people in our cohort are helping older people or just kids.

A: I chose Gonzaga Family Haven because I worked at the Center for Community Engagement. I saw the development of Gonzaga Family Haven over the years. I've been there before, and so I was like, I wanna go back!

S: What services do you provide to families at the Haven?

C: Right now, we're doing our final project on substance abuse and childhood resiliency. There are a lot of resources for [the Haven] that are catered towards substance abuse, but we wanted to go for an approach that emphasized childhood resiliency.

A: That's what we've been working on for the past few weeks, but our first few weeks we hosted the flu clinic, which was great. But also, there's 74 apartments. And Peggy, the director there, a lot of times she has us go around and knock on the doors, hand out info, update residents, do little projects and crafts around the campus. 74 is a lot to get to for one person, so we're able to tag team it and get info out there and check-in with folks who need help.

S: Is there any overlap between the services offered by health providers that come to the Haven and the stuff that you guys do?

A: I feel like we're able to guide them and help them find resources versus writing a prescription.

C: Yeah, I would say we're more like community health education. Like, for our [final] project we're doing a poster board and pamphlets. And we’ve done a lot of posters, surveys, things like that. But also, we're not even, like, “nurses” nurses yet.

A: It's a tricky gray area. I feel like a lot of it is mental health too, where they just come and wanna talk and tell their story. Just letting them talk and be like, “Wow. That sounds like that was really traumatic.”

S: Are there any strong relationships you’ve built with people at the Haven?

C: Yeah. There's a lady who we see every single day, and we always just have a chat with her. She's actually in the process of getting a job at the COG [Gonzaga’s dining facility]. And she always comes in and she's like, “Are you guys the nurses?” Even though we talked to her every single week.”

A: We did a free childcare event on a day where there was no school. For like 2 hours during the lunch hour, [Haven residents could] drop kids off to go do whatever they need to do. We know who her kids are because both came to the childcare event, we see them at the community dinners, they came to the flu clinic. All 3 of got vaccinated. We've seen them progress over the past few weeks there.

C: The kids are so cute. They're just so cute.

S: What’s your favorite part about working with the kids?

A: I think coming into it, I had to understand that their behavior is a reflection of their home life. And so, when you get those glimpses of them, like, apologizing for hitting a kid or, asking “is it okay if I do this?” or setting boundaries for themselves makes them so sweet. It's really cool to see that happen.

C: My favorite part is how rewarding it is to see the kiddos make some progress and just be so willing to share part of themselves with total strangers. As we've gotten to know them over the past few weeks, it's fun to see them start to tell us more about themselves. And then like Audrey said, they'll start saying please and actually listening to us. People will be like, “Maybe you shouldn't hit that person”, and then they don't. And it's like, wow. That's so nice.

A: Yeah. Wholesome childhood fun without everything that could be going on in their home life. Like, whenever they come to events, whether it's our events or CCE Programs, they are purely just kids in that moment, and it's so fun to see them just dance their little hearts out.

S: That is so sweet. So how do you feel like your time at the Haven has either supplemented or helped further propel your education?

A: I feel like it's opened our eyes to the more nontraditional sides of nursing. Because so much of our program is focused on ICU, ER, and mom and baby things. There's this entire other side of nursing and it's totally different than any of the other types of lectures and classes and assignments that we've had.

But we're realizing that it's just as much a part of the care that you see in the hospital. It's like if we can prevent a lot of these things from happening in the community and educate people beforehand, then hopefully it doesn't get to the point where they're showing up in the ICU. I feel like that part's been really nice at the Gonzaga Family Haven because we can actually see right in front of us, some of the health issues that they have going on and try and educate them, or at least create some awareness so they know where to go.

We realized from the get-go that this is a major problem. And we know that they’ve been lectured on the topic so many times before. But that's why we're just having the little poster of, hey, here's some tips and tricks, here's where to go if you need help. Helping them proactively instead of retroactively.

C: I would totally second that. I think also it's an important reminder for me that people have a life outside of the hospital. For our practicum and all of our clinicals, it's hard to see the patients as people. Now we're seeing them in their daily life. They have moms, kids, pets, and problems. So, I think it’s an important reminder that the hospital is just place in time for them, and they have a whole life outside of that. It's nice.

I feel like in the hospital, it's really easy to just go through your checklist and be like, well, you’ll need a walker and this and that. But being out in the community makes you think “they don't even have a car. How could they go to this place and go buy a walker or crutches for their kids?” So, it forces you to think in a different way. I think now being in the hospital, I'm a little bit more aware of what I'm saying to patients and taking their background into consideration of, like, “‘is this even something feasible for them?” Do they have the family support that they need? Or are we just gonna discharge them and say, ‘here's what you need to do, but we're not gonna help you figure it out.’

S: It’s nice that the Haven has helped you recontextualize how you think about your care. Are there any other ways that you think that your time at the Haven will influence your career?

C: I think what you said about looking at the whole picture instead of just the problem, like why they're in the hospital. Taking into account how they'll best perceive the information you give them. And can they even conceptualize that.

A: I think for me personally, it's altered my career more so than other people's. I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to work in the hospital anyway. Prior to nursing school and throughout nursing school, I haven't ever really found my niche. But Gonzaga Family Haven made me realize that there's types of nursing I can do. This made me realize that there's other types of nursing out there that are just as important as the hospital type work that nurses typically do.

Gonzaga Family Haven is an affordable housing community giving families opportunities to stabilize their lives.
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