Without a cool space to rest or readily-available water to drink, the homeless population is especially vulnerable to heat-related illness or death when temperatures start to rise.
In 2009, Claire French learned this first-hand from a patient during a psych clinical rotation. Her patient was homeless, and described how difficult it was to sleep through the hot summer months in Arizona. The pavement never cooled down, and would burn you even in the middle of the night, he said. French recognized that the intense heat could also have an effect on the man’s medications.
“Patients on psych meds dehydrate much faster, and the effects of their psych meds can be impacted by dehydration,” said French, a member of the Class of 2010. “It just struck me that this was a really good cause to become involved with.”
French rallied her Chamberlain College of Nursing classmates at the Phoenix campus, and together they collected 2,200 bottles of water for an event they named “Hydration for the Homeless.”
The students drove a truck to the area around Lodestar Day Resource Center, which works to end homelessness. They walked the streets, handing out water, and gave the remaining bottles to the Center. While some students were nervous at first, everyone was glowing from their good work by the end of the day, French said.
“It was a great opportunity for students to go outside their comfort level and come face-to-face with a less fortunate population,” she said.
The event has grown since its launch, with approximately 6,000 bottles of water collected and distributed last year. Organizers expect the event to grow even larger this year, and have added protein bars and flip-flops to the items they will distribute.
French, now an emergency nurse at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said she is thrilled that students have continued to embrace the cause.
“It’s amazing that we’re able to meet a need that is so vital,” French said. “It’s an opportunity to serve the community and that’s what being a nurse is all about.”
By Molly Mattison
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