April 2, 2010

Nursing students’ project gathers socks for homeless

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The Rev. William Dennler, second from left, with sock giveaway organizers, Stacy Gunter, R.N., left, Brent Lemonds, R.N., and Mark Graves, R.N. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Nursing students’ project gathers socks for homeless

Foot care among the homeless is a significant health concern, and three Vanderbilt University School of Nursing students took the first step in addressing this issue last Sunday.

VUSN Master's of Science in Nursing students Mark Graves, Stacy Gunter and Brent Lemonds — also all registered nurses at Vanderbilt — developed a sock giveaway at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Nashville, as part of a clinical requirement for a Community Health course taught by Sarah Fogel, Ph.D.

The students have been attending the church services since the beginning of this semester to identify needs and gain the trust of the congregation.

They soon realized that members of the homeless population spend most of their time walking from place to place, frequently with inadequate socks and poorly fitting shoes. Health conditions like diabetes, prevalent in the homeless population, can further complicate the danger of poor foot care to include skin ulcers, infections and even tissue death.

“As nurses, we think about diseases and medicine interactions, but this project has made us look at the very basic care,” said Gunter. “Members of the homeless walk everywhere — it's their means of getting around and good socks and good shoes are crucial.”

The students partnered with a national sock manufacturer, ThorLo, which donated 540 pair of socks for distribution to the homeless population served by Holy Trinity each Sunday afternoon as part of its “Church in the Yard” ministry.

“Good socks is a great thing,” said the Rev. Bill Dennler, of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. “Summer is the worst time for foot infections and foot injuries related to poor hygiene. Many must wear the same pair of dirty,

Mark Graves, R.N., distributes socks at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

Mark Graves, R.N., distributes socks at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (photo by Mary Donaldson)

After an afternoon service and congregation meal, the nursing students distributed two pair of new socks to more than 100 people, along with a foot care guide and special instructions on foot health for people with diabetes.

One 48-year-old beneficiary of the sock giveaway, who identified himself as “Nickson,” said he appreciates new, clean socks because he has many foot problems that don't seem to be going away.

The students say they have learned a lot throughout the process and hope to encourage others to get involved with the 3,000-plus members of Davidson County's homeless community.