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CSUSM nursing students partner with La Posada, Rachel’s Women’s Center

SAN MARCOS — Cal State San Marcos School of Nursing has partnered with Catholic Charities in San Diego to provide students with 135 clinical hours required to graduate and become licensed nurses.

Through this partnership, students remain on track to graduate in August, receiving their Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a two-year program for students who already hold a degree in a non-nursing discipline.

“I can speak for my entire cohort in saying that we’re a little concerned with how we’re gonna get all of the experience,” said Angeliki Hitchcock, a nursing student and volunteer at Catholic Charities’ Rachel’s Women’s Center. “With nursing, the hands-on experience is the most important piece, so we’re all pretty eager to get out there and start helping.”

The students work 12-hour shifts educating and screening the residents for health issues, namely skin cancer, diabetes and hypertension, according to Nursing lecturer Madelyn Lewis.

With Rachel’s nine-person staff serving 120 women a day and La Posada’s seven-person staff working a 100-bed, round-the-clock shelter — both sites operated by Catholic Charities — the CSUSM partnership helps compensate for staff shortages.

“Not one of our programs has all the staff we need,” says Catholic Charities’ Homeless Services Director Antoinette Fallon. “[The students] really were a valuable safety net for the staff and people we serve. The staff is so busy sometimes, they can’t sit with somebody who’s struggling and listen to their story or just talk with them.”

Catholic Charities shelters have not reported any COVID-19 cases but have not been able to conduct mass testing since May. The students provide residents with temperature checks and questionnaires, but spreading the virus remains a concern.

“You don’t know if you’re getting exposed when you go into work and into the community,” says Ilaina Hernandez, a La Posada volunteer. “It takes a toll on you. As a healthcare provider, you wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt anybody else — that’s the last thing that you wanna do. But we’re practicing everything that we can and we’re doing our best.”

The CSUSM Community Health curriculum provides the first look into serving vulnerable populations, people who oftentimes don’t have access to adequate living conditions or healthcare.

Fallon says some students already hope to continue volunteering and may pursue public health after graduation. Hitchcock is one such student.

“You don’t really realize how big of an issue it is,” Hitchcock said. “The amount of people living on the streets compared to the resources is just astronomical. I felt a little ignorant before. Now knowing what I know, I want to continue to help serve in any way I can. It wasn’t the experience I necessarily thought I would be getting, but I think it’s better than anything else I would’ve been doing.”