ED NOTE: We had two wonderful student nurses with us every Thursday this year. They did blood pressure and weight checks, consulted about meds and general health questions. Both women fit right in and made a huge contribution. They will be away this summer and return in the fall. We will miss them! This is an guest blog entry from their experience here.
A couple of weeks ago, Alisa and I held a class on cardiac health for the women at the center. The truth in holding the class posed some challenges since our main objective was two-fold: honor the mission and atmosphere of the site while providing information. Needless to say, there were many women in attendance and it was whole-heartedly a success. Foremost, we hoped to create an atmosphere of listening, responding, facilitating, and respect for health (whatever that definition meant to each individual). What became apparent as the discussion unfolded was that the women themselves were incredible sources of accurate information. Of the women in attendance, almost everyone had some personal experience with heart disease and/or heart attack. The class took on a life of its own, women were sharing stories, giving examples of ways they had coped with their health, and providing support to each other. Overall, Alisa and I realized that our role in the class was to underscore most of the information the women already had. Specifically, we tried to focus on why heart attacks are relevant to women, risk factors, ways to modify the risks, and clarifying misinformation.
The Heart Truth class offered us an opportunity to expand our role. Over the semester we had been trying to build trust with the center’s community. What this class solidified was that we had (on some level) made some headway. Our presence and consistency had built some trust and acceptance of us within their community. The truly delightful part of the experience for me was looking around and realizing we were allowed to be part of their discussion. After leaving the class I spent time reflecting about the event and came away with one personal revelation: I finally understood and witnessed the mission of the center. You can talk about trust, listening, community building, internal resources, and presence until you are blue in the face. It is a wholly different experience to be “within it”. Although I am sure that the women gained clarity from our discussion I walked away changed by the experience. It is one I will continue to reflect on as I progress in my nursing career.