ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Nursing students stand down for the homeless

Christina Pham

San Diego City College nursing students volunteered to assist the San Diego homeless veterans during Operation Stand Down, a three-day event from July 16 through 18, held on San Diego High School’s athletic field.

Operation Stand Down was on its 23rd annual nationwide program to take action in getting homeless veterans off the streets. The three-day event started July 16 at 6 a.m. and continued round the clock 24 hours a day.

Vets living in San Diego County and their families were given food, clothing and other resources. They received free services including health care, substance abuse, counseling and legal and employment assistance.

Stand Down is an annual three-day event that is designed like a tent city. The layout of all the tents were in a basic horseshoe shape with the stage set in the center.

Many of the volunteers for Stand Down were Camp Pendleton Marines, U.S. Navy troops, and Marine Corps. Volunteers would help to set-up tents and other facilities. Returns from last year’s volunteers are common.

Latrice Cowell, a San Diego City College registered nurse and professor of licensed vocational nursing, volunteered at Operation Stand Down with some of her nursing students.

“This is amazing; it’s like a mini-city they put this up here,” Cowell said.

Stand Down offers SDCC nursing students an opportunity to practice improving their skills and experiences. Each nursing student understands that their volunteering role in Stand Down is shown in commitment and consistency.

Cowell described how City nursing students contributed to this year’s Stand Down.

“(Students) managed and took all the vets’ vital signs and got them back on the exam intake,” Cowell explained. “Yesterday, we were managing the table with all the paper works.

“I actually want to do this myself as often as possible,” Cowell added.

Marsha Hansen, a registered nurse at City with a degree in nursing, pointed out two booths that had massage therapy and acupuncture, and said that it was “something new” for this year’s Stand Down.

City College nursing student Katee Finks was a volunteer for Stand Down.

“My first experience made me realize that this is definitely what I want to do as a nurse,” she said. “We took vital signs and looked at other nurses. The tents had no air conditioning and it was really hot.”

Lindsey Gabrielson, a nursing assistant certified by the California Department of Health Services, and also a City College nursing student, described her experience at Stand Down.

“I thought it was really intense,” Gabrielson said. “You have to have specific settings to feel comfortable. It was an enclosed environment.”

“I wanted to be a nurse because I like helping people,” Gabrielson continued. “I’ve worked for a year with veterans and I have experience.”

San Diego City College nursing students are taught to observe and record any physical, mental, social and emotional changes in their patients.

The SDCC nursing curriculum prepares students to assume the responsibility for providing health care to clients with severe and chronic illnesses.