School of Nursing and Steans Center team on community engagement model

MENP yoga
Leading a yoga class is one of the many ways students of DePaul's MENP program can spend time at their community service site. (Image courtesy of the Steans Center)
The future of nursing will include a growing presence in communities, with less focus on hospital health care. 

This is the argument of a recently accepted manuscript developed by the School of Nursing and the Irwin W. Steans Center at DePaul. Published in the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, the manuscript stems from the five-course community engagement curriculum implemented at the School of Nursing five years ago.

“In the next few decades, we expect patient care will shift – technology will manage a lot of the hospital-based care,” says Kim Amer, interim director of the School of Nursing. “With that, we expect nursing will move to more community-based roles. Embedding nursing into the community -- making health clinics or centers present, available and welcoming – is going to strengthen health outcomes for individuals and communities alike.”

At the beginning of their time in the program, each Master’s entry into nursing practice student is paired with a service site. Throughout their time in the program, students dedicate at least 12 hours per quarter working with their particular site and community. Tasks can range from analyzing community populations to assisting with evaluations to developing education interventions. One student even developed an “ask a nurse” column for the community’s monthly newsletter.

“Because students work consistently with the same site through their time in the program, they really get a good sense of the particular community’s needs,” Amer says. “This helps broaden their view and awareness of what health is. They also learn about communities and how they function, beyond a textbook discussion or simulated environment online.”

The program admits about 50 new students every quarter and works with 80 community sites per year, both numbers that have grown since implementing the community engagement model. In the coming years, Amer and her colleagues in both the School of Nursing and the Steans Center hope the program continues to expand. 

“In general, most people who go into the field of nursing are not self-focused – they care deeply about the well-being of others,” Amer adds. “It’s wonderful to see how they respond and develop from quarter to quarter through this model. Though many of our nursing courses already have the concepts of empathy and vulnerability woven into them, adding in the community engagement aspect to this program further aligned it with the work of St. Vincent and St. Louise.”