Public Health

A Journey of Compassion and Dedication: Southern Adventist University Nursing Students Explore Healthy Homes Project in Appalachia

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It was a crisp spring morning when fifteen nursing students from Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga, TN, arrived at AdventHealth Manchester to gain a glimpse of Appalachia through the Healthy Homes Mission Project.

David Watson, Director of Engineering at AHM, and other hospital staff welcomed the eager volunteers, their professor, and one clinical educator with open arms. They met in the hospital cafeteria for breakfast, then moved to the chapel for daily devotions and a synopsis of the Healthy Homes Program.

AHM's mission is to Extend the Healing Ministry of Christ. Our mission goes outside the corridors of our hospital into the hollers of Clay and surrounding counties. Last year alone, AHM ministered in over 50 homes providing Occupational Therapy and Home Assessments, handicap accessibility, fire protection, trip hazard prevention, mold remediation, and many other services that improve the quality of the home.

Day one also included greetings from our administration team and a better understanding of home quality needs from our Case Management Teams. We ended the morning with a complete hospital tour and a look back into the rich history of AHM.

Afterward, the nursing students were divided into three groups. Group 1 spent the rest of the long day in Southern Clay County with an Occupational Therapist and Construction Supervisor, assessing the homeowner's needs and the home's condition. Group 2 traveled 30 minutes to catch a ride with one of our several mission partners and later traveled another 40 minutes into a remote part of Leslie County. There they participated in-home repairs identified earlier in the month per our pre-assessment process. Group 3 traveled over 60 miles aiding in follow-up visits or post-inspections, determining how the repairs and education have prevented falls and/or improved quality of life.

Each day ended with a debriefing session identifying health and wellness indicators, environmental factors, food insecurity, travel distances, and home conditions.

The teams rotated for the next two days allowing every student to experience the different layers of the AHM Healthy Homes Mission Program, creating seven new projects, working on two different homes, and following up with nine homeowners who have benefited from our mission.

In conclusion, this mission has undoubtedly changed the perspective of these soon-to-be caregivers. No matter where they choose to work, they will always remember the importance of their patient's well-being after discharge. Patients with COPD returning to a home with mold growth due to poor water drainage around the home, or a 75-year-old widow with respiratory issues returning to a cold mobile home and her only heat source is a coal-burning stove causing soot and heat issues, or it could be as simple as an 80-year-old mother who does not have batteries for her TV remote control and cannot change the channel allowing her to watch her favorite church service on Sunday.

The Lord says in Deuteronomy 15:11, "There will always be poor people in the land. So, I'm commanding you to give freely to those who are poor and needy in your land. Open your hands to them." It was a pleasure to see the new nurses from Southern Adventist University not only follow God's direction but to listen to his voice.

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