College of Nursing, School of Medicine reach out to homeless

By Staff

College of Nursing reaches out to homeless
It is difficult to tell who gets more out of a partnership between the University of Colorado College of Nursing, University of Colorado School of Medicine and Urban Peak – the volunteers or the young people who receive services in the Urban Peak health clinic.

Urban Peak helps homeless youth and youth at risk of becoming homeless overcome real life challenges. It provides essential services and a supportive community, empowering them to become self-sufficient adults. The organization’s shelter gives young people a safe place to sleep and offers case management, GED classes, job training and placement programs. Each of the young people in the program also has access to health care.

That’s where the CU College of Nursing and CU School of Medicine come in. Each person who comes through the clinic receives a physical examination that includes several health-screening tests – including HIV and tuberculosis. Residents from the CU School of Medicine rotate through each semester under the supervision of Christine Gilroy, M.D., MSPH, associate professor in adolescent medicine and medical director at Urban Peak.

Thanks to the efforts of Scott Harpin, Ph.D., MPH, APRN-BC, assistant professor in the CU College of Nursing, student nurse volunteers also are pitching in at the clinic one day a week. Harpin undertook similar work in Minnesota and moved to Colorado about a year ago.

Harpin said Urban Peak, the clinic and Gilroy, specifically, have a reputation for providing appropriate, respectful health care.

“I’m still learning the scene here in Denver. But often, health care services for the homeless youth population are scattered and piecemeal. So having a central location is important for the best delivery to the young people,” Harpin said. “I heard about Christine and her leadership. We had coffee and I told her I would love to get nursing students involved in the clinic. We made it happen, and it worked out quickly.”

Gilroy said the clinic runs more efficiently with the CU College of Nursing volunteers, most days doubling the number of patients they can see in a half day to 10. And after 16 years at Urban Peak, she said the interaction with the young people is rewarding. “I can see someone who says their knee hurts and test them for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases and talk to them about risky behaviors that may not be top of mind.”

Harpin and the student volunteers set up a Facebook page for students who want to learn more about the volunteer effort at Urban Peak. Jesse Francomano is one of the student leaders.

“The kids here are motivated to move on. If I can help in any way, shape or form – I am happy to do so,” Francomano said. As for the clinical experience - he called it invaluable. Due in part to his experience at Urban Peak, Francomano wants to work in adolescent health when he graduates in May 2013.