Collaborative poverty simulation training brings together medical and nursing students with community

March 12, 2018

Medical students from the Wayne State University School of Medicine joined WSU College of Nursing students for a poverty simulation training held Feb. 27 and March 1 at Messiah Church in Detroit.

The training, hosted by the College of Nursing in a partnership with the Michigan Area Health Education Center, provided students with the opportunity to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. The goal of the training is to prepare students for the potential challenges facing their future patients, while increasing their empathy and effectiveness as they care for patients facing these challenges.

More than 116 medical and nursing students and 16 community volunteers participated in the event. Using a simulation kit, students assumed the roles of families facing poverty and were required to provide for basic necessities and shelter. They also had to make decisions on how to spend what little money they were given to survive. Community volunteers took on the role of vendors representing community resources and services such as a bank, utility company, pawn broker, day care center and more. The students experienced a simulated month -- represented by four 15-minute "weeks" -- and tried to provide for their families while dealing with crime, utility shut-offs, unemployment and a host of other issues.

"Participation in the poverty simulation provides students with experience in the struggles faced by vulnerable populations, a reflection of their personal feelings regarding vulnerable population, knowledge of the importance of community resources for vulnerable populations and interprofessional experiential learning between nursing and medical students," said Joan Bickes, D.N.P., assistant professor in the WSU College of Nursing who manages the poverty simulation training. "Perhaps most importantly, the training builds empathy for those patients in vulnerable situations by their health care providers."

Since the WSU College of Nursing started holding Poverty Simulation for students in 2014 the program has continued to grow and expand. Future plans for the poverty simulation are to recruit other health professional programs, as well as other students from other units on campus, to join in the simulation experience. The School of Medicine’s entire Class of 2022 –up to 300 students – will participate in similar programming when they begin classes this summer.

"We want all students graduating from WSU to have empathy for the vulnerable in our community. The poverty simulation allows students to have a glimpse into the life of those experiencing poverty," Dr. Bickes added.