Poverty simulation offers powerful lesson

Nursing students learn harsh realities that will help them provide health care to underserved populations


On the first day of school, nursing students will participate in a unique poverty simulation available at a handful of universities around the country. During the simulation, the students will learn about the realities of life for their patients who live with the constant stress of poverty.

Participants role play the lives of low-income families. A student may be a single parent trying to care for his or her children, or a senior citizen with failing health trying to live on social security. Each family must use their nominal income to pay for housing, food and other necessities. The students will learn how their patients must interact with various community resources in order to get assistance. They will learn the obstacles the underserved have to attaining health care.

The first hour is the role playing of a month in the life of someone experiencing poverty, and the second hour includes a de-briefing when participants review the experience, including how it made them feel and what happened to them during the “month.”

Students who went through the first session of the poverty simulation in June told their professors the experience truly changed how they work with underserved patients. They said they thought they were more effective in helping patients.

The poverty simulation kicks off the students’ “Population-Focused Health” course. During the class this semester, they will attain hands-on experience working at Haven for Hope, senior citizen centers and day care centers and performing home visits.

Eight zip codes in San Antonio have more than 50 percent of residents living below the poverty line. Thirty-one percent of San Antonio children live below the poverty line, according to 2011 census data.


Facilitators of the poverty simulation from the Department of Family & Community Health Systems in the School of Nursing are Marion Donohoe, D.N.P., APRN, CPNP-BC, assistant professor; Martha Martinez, M.S.N., RN, clinical assistant professor; and Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor. Teri Boese, M.S.N., RN, director of the Clinical Learning Laboratory & Simulation Center, also serves as a facilitator of the poverty simulation.

Eighty fourth-semester undergraduate nursing students and 20 volunteers will participate in each of the two sessions. Interviews in Spanish will be available.


Monday, Aug. 26, 2013
9 to 11 a.m. First session (First hour is more visual.)
1 to 3 p.m. Second session (Same simulation as earlier one. First hour is more visual.)


The Neighborhood Place, 3014 Rivas St., 78228, Located on the West Side between N. San Felipe Avenue and N. General, McMullen Drive. Adjacent to Holy Cross High School.


The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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