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Nursing Students Make a Difference in Madison

  • Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012

Cailyn Abrahamson ‘12 (l.) and Kristen Schmidt ’12 used netbook computers purchased through a grant from AT&T to help deliver healthcare to Madison’s underserved residents
(June 19, 2012) – If you’re reading this, chances are it’s on a computer – or a smartphone. That kind of connection is so prevalent we can easily take it for granted. But for many of our fellow Madison residents, simply tapping the wealth of information that’s accessed through the web remains out of reach.

Thanks to a gift from AT&T, Nursing students from Edgewood College are helping to change that, and they’re helping right here in Dane County. Using ‘netbooks’ secured through a $5,000 grant from AT&T, the students used the machines at clinical sites throughout the semester, using tele-medicine/tele-health to reach underserved populations. Like the people who visit the ‘Meriter Health Hut,’ on Madison’s south side.

Graduating seniors Cailyn Abrahamson of Waukesha and Kristen Schmidt of Sun Prairie worked with Clinic Administrator Barb Simon, RN as part of their Nursing 461 class in public health. The clinic functions to provide health education and outreach for the homeless population of Dane County. It’s operated by Meriter Hospital.

“What we did varied by week,” Cailyn said. “But we primarily used the computer to create a database of all the supplies that she has.” A simple enough task, but it’s critically important for the clinic, which operates using volunteers, relying on donations and other community support.

“They’re free clinics, so they bring these huge duffle bags of all of these supplies, and (Barb) was finding that it was somewhat of an inefficient system,” Cailyn said. “So we created a huge spreadsheet with a master list, and there are bags of supplies within bags, and now everything is alphabetized and they can find what they need. She said it’s really helped her.”

Kristen recalls a time when the simple act of getting onto the internet in the netbook made a real difference for one of the clients at the clinic. “By having wireless access, we were able to look up different things Barb needed,” she said. “There was a patient that came in one day, and he needed to know about the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings around the community. So I looked that up for him. For me it’s just like we’re doing something for the greater good.”

Getting this view of public health for these young people as they prepare to enter their career is eye-opening, and not always what they expect. “I helped someone apply for a job, online,” Cailyn said. “He didn’t even have an email address, so I helped him create an email address so he was able to apply. Haven’t heard what happened, but he sent a really nice thank-you card, so he was grateful, either way.”

For these two students, the simple acts of increasing efficiency in order to improve service for those who need it most, and touching those lives in a very meaningful way, has been profound. And these two are ready for more. Cailyn has accepted a position at Mayo Clinic Health System - Franciscan Healthcare in LaCrosse on a medical-surgical unit. Kristen has been accepted into the Nurse Residency Program at the UW Hospital & Clinics/American Family Children’s Hospital and will begin her career in nursing on the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, ENT, Plastics, Neurosurgery, and Neurology unit.

“We like to do things to help people,” Kristen said. “As a nurse, in our profession, that’s what we do.”