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updated: 12/2/2011 3:27 PM

Aurora nursing students give free clinic for homeless

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  • John Davis, who stays at Hesed House in Aurora, has his blood pressure taken Friday by nursing student Stephanie Peterson as Aurora University nursing students hold their first health clinic at the homeless services center.

       John Davis, who stays at Hesed House in Aurora, has his blood pressure taken Friday by nursing student Stephanie Peterson as Aurora University nursing students hold their first health clinic at the homeless services center.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Debbie Harrington, food ministry coordinator at Hesed House, receives a flu shot from Julia Dittberner as Kim Emma observes.

       Debbie Harrington, food ministry coordinator at Hesed House, receives a flu shot from Julia Dittberner as Kim Emma observes.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Student nurses from Aurora University joined the mix of volunteers providing counseling, job training, food and computer assistance Friday morning at Hesed House.

It was the university's first health clinic at the homeless services center in Aurora. Ten student nurses, an instructor and two employees of the Kane County Health Department planned to give flu shots and blood pressure screenings to at least 125 people during the five-hour clinic.

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"The whole goal of this is to try to prevent illness," said Kim Kwasniewski, a student nurse leader of West Chicago.

The group also aimed to educate people living in Hesed House's emergency shelter or transitional living facilities about free or low-cost health services.

The clinic offered Debra Harvey, who's staying at Hesed House, a chance to get a flu shot before bundling up for the cold day ahead, she said.

Harvey called the free service helpful and said the flu shot didn't hurt.

John Davis, who's also staying at Hesed House because he is homeless, learned he didn't have high blood pressure -- he tested in the normal range both before and after receiving a flu shot.

Before planning Friday's clinic, a different group of Aurora University nursing students came to Hesed House and gave its guests health surveys, said Julie Garcia, nursing instructor.

"They were surprised to find out that some people weren't aware of the health services that provide assistance to them at free or minimal cost," Garcia said.

So the group of students who staffed the clinic designed pamphlets about health services provided by the Visiting Nurses Association of Fox Valley and Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center and Health Center.

"We decided to do this event and (hand out) pamphlets in the library to try to get them access to health care if they need it," Kwasniewski said.

Aside from educating homeless individuals about where to get treatment for illnesses, the clinic also served as a learning experience for the student nurses, all of whom are in their senior year, Garcia said.

"It's a very educational experience for them," she said, "especially because two of them haven't given flu shots before."

Hesed House staff and volunteers, including Executive Director Ryan Dowd, also took advantage of the free flu shots and blood pressure screenings.

Dowd said more health services are expected to be available at Hesed House within the next year.

Aunt Martha's, which provides health services on-site twice a week, got a grant to move its clinic to a corner of Hesed House's facility at 659 S. River St., he said. The clinic is expected to open in about six months.

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