February 24, 2006

Mercury Courts highlights VUSN community efforts

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VUSN Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., receives a tour of Mercury Courts by Urban Housing Solution’s Rusty Lawrence.
Photo by Neil Brake

Mercury Courts highlights VUSN community efforts

A contingent of Vanderbilt executives recently got a firsthand look at the care programs being implemented at Mercury Courts, a former motel that's been refurbished as individual apartments for those who might otherwise be homeless.

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, and Chancellor Gordon Gee were among those who last week toured the 170-resident facility off Murfreesoboro Road and its VUSN-run health care programs.

The site is run by Urban Housing Solutions, an area non-profit that provides housing for the homeless.

VUSN faculty member Carol Etherington, M.S.N., assistant professor of Nursing, has been heading up a community health program for several years at the site, and VUSN has offered health promotion activities there since 2003.

Each semester, VUSN nursing students complete their community health clinical rotation at this site. Many of the students have not worked closely with this underserved population, which can be very difficult to connect with.

“We as people and health care professionals need to bridge the issue of fear between an ‘us versus them' mentality,’” said Etherington. “When you proceed with caution, but get over the fear of our differences, you can make a huge difference in someone's life.”

The program includes an annual health and wellness fair, cooking demonstrations, shopping trips for improved nutrition and sessions on chronic health issues such as diabetes.

“I see a difference in our students after working with the residents. This experience helps them grasp the concept of holistic help, leads to personal growth and builds confidence,” Etherington added.