Emory Nursing Students ASL Clinical Experience with Service to the Armed Forces
By: Lisa Raman, DNP, RN, M Ed., N-Ed., LOC
During an Academic Service-Learning (ASL) clinical class at Emory University School of Nursing, undergraduate nursing students overseen by Lisa Raman, DNP, RN, MEd., N-Ed., LOC had a unique opportunity to work as caseworkers with military families. Students worked under the direction of Maria Najlis, the Regional Program Manager of the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) and International Services of the American Red Cross of Georgia. The SAF program provides vital service to veterans, those who are currently enlisted in the military, and their families. These services include emergency communication messages (ECM), financial assistance, disaster response and suicide intervention.
When a case is assigned to an SAF caseworker, the bulk of the work has been completed. Students follow up with the client on the service they requested, verify the service was completed, ask and address needs if any further service is required and then close the case. The students were trained to ensure service members had been in contact with their loved ones and to provide a needs assessment or other requested assistance. The troops and their families told the students how much it meant to them to know through these interactions that people were looking out for them, especially during the exceptional challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.
Maria Najils expressed to Dr. Raman that she truly enjoyed working with the students. She added, “We were grateful for the support of Emory’s future nurses in delivering critical Red Cross services to military families state-wide. Their compassion for people in need and desire to provide helpful resources made a difference in hundreds of lives.”
Three students shared their perspectives about working with military families. Despite the outcomes not always being happy ones, the students felt that their efforts made a positive impact on the community, and they personally benefitted from the opportunity to help others through their efforts.
Kiara Hibbler, BSN student, reflected on her experience, “As simple as this may sound, I found that no two cases were alike…
There was a particular follow-up that I had with a service member whose father was terminally ill in the hospital. The service member wanted to visit his father before his father died. Unfortunately, [another family member] refused to allow the father’s sons to visit him. Until this interaction, I never saw an issue with the medical power of attorney policy. The American Red Cross repeatedly attempted to get permission from the [family member/POA], but [the person] continuously refused and the Red Cross had limited influence. I chose to follow up on the case to tell the service member the unfortunate news and expressed my condolences. The service member was distraught and angry at the [family member] for keeping the service member and his brother away from their father. In a stroke of luck, the service member received a call from [another member of his family] before I closed the case. I believe that, in the end, that [family member] was able to help him get the permission he needed to go home to see his father before he passed away.” This experience has broadened Kiara’s knowledge about end of life legal and ethical issues and will help her personally and professionally.
Kayla Coque, BSN student, reflected, “I feel that I was able to make an impact for many service members and their families. Not only are they having to go through the hardships of this pandemic, but they also have had to go through other hardships. I am proud to have participated in such an amazing program so that I can extend a helping hand to them.”
Kayla also shared the following story: “Throughout my time in the program, I have had many touching experiences. One that really moved me involved a service member’s wife. The service member’s [family] had contacted the service member and requested his return, because his pregnant wife was in the hospital in critical condition. He received the message. When I made my call, I asked if the service member was able to return home and if they needed any other assistance from the Red Cross. His [family member] politely declined any assistance and stated that the husband was able to come home and stand by his wife's bedside. [The family member] sadly reported that his wife passed away, but was very thankful that her husband was able to be at her side. With a shaky and emotional voice, [the family member] ended the call by thanking me many times for the work that we are doing, and the help that we are providing the families and the service members.”
Karla Lima, BSN student, beautifully and succinctly closed the reflective moment by saying, “This was a great learning experience in many different ways. I learned how to address delicate matters and how to be more empathetic. I know that these new skills will be fundamental for my nursing career, as they will help me build a trusting connection with my patients. With SAF we were helping families, one call at a time, providing relief and comfort during the times they needed it the most.”
The Emory School of Nursing community and public health clinical team, led by Quyen Phan, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC continues to nurture the relationship with the Red Cross and SAF and looks forward to helping more families through ASL, while simultaneously nurturing the development of our nursing students. After all, that is what community is all about.