Omaha college students simulate how poverty impacts healthcare

A real-world simulation for College of Saint Mary students allowed future healthcare workers an eye-opening experience.
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 4:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha’s College of Saint Mary is helping future healthcare students learn how poverty has impacted those who need medical assistance through a simulated classroom experience.

It’s a practice that’s eye-opening to some, and relatable to others.

Tuesday morning, students from CSM’s nursing, physical therapy and occupational therapy programs all gathered in one place to work together on a poverty simulation.

“To immerse in what it would be like to live as a person who is of low economic means,” says first-year nursing student Angie Washington.

The goal of the simulation is to help future healthcare workers understand the hardships their patients may face daily.

“They are given basically a scenario of somebody who has already lived this, all the families are from real-life examples outside,” says Dr. Jennifer Kuchta, the Director of CSM’s practical nursing program.

Each student is given a role, must go to work or school, pay bills and survive - all with limited budgets and resources.

“I know it’s a microcosm of what is actually going on out there,” Washington adds.

As someone who has lived in a scenario similar to those they’re simulating, Washington knows experience like this is valuable.

“We’ll be able to relate back to this when we’re out in the community when we’re doing clinicals, when we’re having conversations after a time at the hospital or with patients and we’ll be able to recall okay, they were probably dealing with a lot of those similar situations that we were seeing during the simulations,” Washington says.

Program organizers say the exposure will help make healthcare students more empathetic, too.

“When they have patients that are maybe saying I can’t afford that medication, I can’t get that test done I can’t get my healthcare taken care of because I have to work or kids are in daycare or whatever it may be, it kind of gives them a better idea of why they’re saying that,” Dr. Kuchta says. “It gives them an understanding of why sometimes healthcare is not taken care of to the way we would recommend it as a healthcare provider.”

Dr. Kuchta says once students can better understand someone’s circumstances, they can provide better care.