Nursing students connect with inner city during community tour
As their bus departed from Investors Group Athletic Centre, Bruce Martin, doctor and associate dean (students) of the College of Medicine, posed the following question to a group of first-year College of Nursing students: “How many of you live north of the CPR tracks?”
The question was met with a couple of raised hands, but far more confused looks.
“We’re going to figure it out,” Martin exclaimed with a smile.
The bus was on its way to Winnipeg’s inner city, as part of an annual community tour for medical students during orientation. Martin originally created the tour to address the issue of new students not being familiar with a crucial area that – with a life expectancy around 10 years less than the city average – is crucial for health practitioners.
Now in its fourth year, the goal for students, Martin said, is to “make connections in your community, to make connections with your neighbours, but also to know the strengths of your neighbours, and the needs of your neighbours.”
Last week marked the first time on the tour for the College of Nursing, which joined other participating departments from the newly created Faculty of Health Sciences. The nursing bus was also the first ever to depart away from the Bannatyne campus, where services such as Health Sciences Centre and CancerCare Manitoba are within walking distance.
“If you go one circle out from those rich resources – care, research and innovation – you reach into the part of our city that is profoundly diverse and generally unknown to us,” said Martin.
UM Today accompanied a tour that included a stop at Siloam Mission, Winnipeg’s largest homeless shelter. Nursing students had the opportunity to explore the shelter’s medical and recreational facilities, as well as the second-floor commune that has beds for 110 people.
The visit was a first for many of the students, including Nicky Berg.
“I found it very interesting to see all the programs they offered, and I really appreciated their motto of dignity and respect for everyone,” said Berg.
“This is largely the demographic that we will be treating in hospital settings, so I think it’s very important to understand that there’s a lot of reasons why these people are in need of health services.”
Lindsay Smith, director of human resources and volunteer services at Siloam Mission, joined the tour, and offered some perspective for students who may feel out of place in the inner city.
“I never really went downtown, except when my mom took me to The Bay,” Smith, a 2006 global political economy graduate of the University of Manitoba, told the group.
“My whole university career I would take the Perimeter [Highway] around [to the Fort Garry campus from North Kildonan] over and over again for five years. What changed for me was a summer job where my bus transfer was in downtown Winnipeg, and it was something as simple as a bus transfer that forced me to be downtown, and forced me to interact with the folks who I now have the pleasure of serving.”
Following the stop at Siloam Mission, the bus tour continued throughout Winnipeg’s historic North End, covering staple Selkirk Avenue businesses like Gunn’s Bakery, and community health resources such as the North End Women’s Centre. The bus also passed by the William Norrie Centre – home to the U of M’s Inner City Social Work program – before returning to Fort Garry Campus, where the students will spend the majority of their time in university.
Despite the distance gap, Smith reminded students that their newfound connection will be permanent: “No matter who you are, you do have something to share with the inner city, and the people who live there.”