CSUCI Nursing studentsJuly 24, 2018 — When asked about her experience “Care Harbor,” a massive free clinic held annually in downtown Los Angeles, 2018 CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Nursing graduate Alysha Payne is at a loss for words.

“It was absolutely phenomenal,” she said. “They have dentistry, OB-GYN, STD testing, eye exams, and they serve over 2,000 people over the course of three days.”

To support and enhance CSUCI’s involvement in Care Harbor, the Nursing program was just awarded $10,000 from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Senior Nursing students have been participating in the project for five years under the direction of Assistant Professor of Nursing Charlene Niemi, Ph.D., R.N., CNE, who wrote the grant proposal.

When the students saw the need for follow-up information, they set up a health literacy education station in which they coached patients on their specific health conditions or concerns.

“The nursing students meet one-on-one with clients for anywhere from five to 45 minutes educating them on everything from medications to the disease process to what they need to do to stay healthy,” Niemi said. 

This award will allow Niemi to supply the station with posters, 3-D models to assist the nursing students with health instruction or perhaps videos on such procedures such as how to check blood pressure.

It’s one more essential element to an event that treats and educates those without medical insurance or access to care, and connects them with medical centers to provide continuing care so they can lead healthy, productive lives.

“They bring in about 60 vendors,” Niemi said. “Everything from a chef to teach healthy cooking to yoga, vision. They will make glasses there, there are 70 dental chairs where they can do crowns, root canals, everything. They will provide prescriptions, and all of this is free to the client.”

Payne and the other students saw a steady stream of low-income or homeless individuals and families, all of whom left an impression on Payne. Especially one homeless Vietnam veteran with multiple health problems, she said.

“He had one leg amputated and it looked like the other one was going to go that route, too,” she said. “He had been living on the streets, homeless. He’s never had the medical attention or health attention or honestly, the moral support he needed.”

The veteran told Payne about his life, including violence he had suffered in the homeless community. Because one of the services Care Harbor offers is temporary housing services, the students were able to wheel him safely into a van to take him to temporary housing.

Payne, who also earned a degree in Psychology, considers herself an empathic person, but she said Care Harbor intensified her nursing experience as never before, and she fully intends to participate again this year, when Care Harbor takes place in October. 

Payne has known she wanted to be a nurse ever since she was 17 years old and nearly died from a burst appendix. She was hospitalized at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks where she spent a week recovering.

“I had one amazing nurse who completely changed my life,” she said. “It’s the littlest things she did that made the most difference. I knew right then I wanted to become a nurse.”

To learn more about Care Harbor, visit: www.careharbor.org.