Vulnerable populations are those at risk for poor physical, mental, or social health. Everyone is vulnerable at some point in their lives due to illness and unfortunate life events. In order to deliver quality health care, providers need to be aware of their own vulnerability. This paper will discuss the homeless in the workplace, increase awareness of barriers to health care services, and provide solutions to improve healthcare for the homeless population. Homelessness
According to the “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services” (2014) website, homeless is defined as, an “Individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility that provides temporary living accommodations. Individual who is a resident in transitional housing. A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation”(Homeless Definition). After reviewing this definition, the homeless awareness has increased by helping us understand that it is not just the person sleeping on the street or in the abandoned house that is homeless. There are 3.5 million people considered homeless in the United States on any given night (Health of the Homeless, 2014. Para 1). Awareness of Barriers
Delivering effective healthcare is dependent on understanding barriers that effect the homeless receiving healthcare services. The unique situation each homeless person faces needs to be recognized. Being homeless does not necessarily mean being uneducated or lazy. Homeless people are all ages, men and women, some with former professional backgrounds. The homeless population face many barriers to obtaining heath care. Distrust is a huge factor that keeps homeless from seeking health care services. Feeling unwelcomed during health care visits, by being ignored, rushed, brushed aside, or treated rudely was a universal feeling among the homeless (Wen, Hudak, & Hwang, 2007. Para.15). Providers showing lack of empathy reduces desire of the homeless to use services. Lack of transportation, insurance, communication, and support are all barriers that influences the homeless person’s ability to obtain health care services. As health care providers, we need to recognize these barriers to better understand the homeless and provide effective health care. Breaking the Barriers
Breaking the barriers the homeless population face is an important step in providing effective and quality health care that all people deserve. Most homeless will frequent local emergency departments as their main source of health care (Wen et.al. 2007 para. 34). Using the emergency departments for the main source of health care cost more money than it would if the homeless had a health care provider they could access and depend upon. Availability of health services would allow the homeless to better control their illnesses or prevent illness and disease. These illnesses and diseases can be the reason the person is homeless and remains homeless. Accessibility
Being accessible is a key component in breaking the barriers in health care services. Providing clinics in areas the homeless are in, will allow for more accessible health care. If health care is more accessible the homeless could attend appointments, trainings, and counseling more readily. Health care providers being in homeless ‘neighborhoods’ would develop an increased understanding of this vulnerable population and allow health care providers to have a more caring attitude and provide quality, effective health care. Providers with lack of empathy reduces the homeless person’s desire to visit health care clinics. Empathy needs to be developed for health care providers to have an understanding of the difficulty the homeless population have in their lives with transportation to and from health care appointments. Welcomeness
To offer a welcoming atmosphere to the homeless, approach each patient with dignity and openness, during their visit. Providers can apply Watson’s Theory of Human Caring by using humility and being receptive to the homeless as a whole, sacred person. This goal will be achieved by recognizing the uniqueness of each circumstance with each patient. Stereotypes of homeless people and their past experiences with discrimination, increase the risk that the homeless patient will feel unwelcome and dehumanized during a health care encounter (Wen et.al. 2007 para. 29). Recognizing the unique situations will prevent stereotyping patients who are members of this vulnerable population. Using therapeutic communication will develop relationships to determine each individual situation and provide care that will make a difference in their lives (Fordham, 2014. p.33). Build Trust
Building trust begins with treating the homeless or any vulnerable population with dignity and respect. Communication process is improved as trust is gained. To provide adequate health care communication is essential, so trust must be developed. To develop trust with the patient you must have an awareness of their homeless situation. Being knowledgeable of the predicament the homeless person faces on a daily basis will increase the awareness. Attitude is another factor that affects trust. Health care providers must have an attitude that effectively engages the homeless population. Being accountable in the care you give we instill trust in the patient. When the homeless is offered health care services, counselling, or workshops, to develop job skills, those services should be received by them. Health care providers need to be held accountable for services offered and provided to the homeless population.
Gaining knowledge of the homeless vulnerable population increases the health care services and quality of care that we can provide. It is essential to understand the barriers the homeless face on a daily basis. By applying Leininger’s theory of transcultural nursing care the healthcare provider can deliver quality health care with respect and support for the unique backgrounds each homeless individual offers. Homeless people can be resilient if given the chance. Awareness, accessibility, communication, and trust can be a few of the small steps we take that can make major improvements in the lives of the homeless population. Understanding the homeless individual’s situation allows us to provide care that makes a difference to each patient we contact. As health care providers we need to work on our accessibility, therapeutic communication, caring attitudes, and cultural competencies to engage this homeless vulnerable population. By applying our knowledge gained to this population we should produce positive outcomes and possibly prevent the occurrences of some vulnerable situations.
Fordham, M. (2014, June). Health and homelessness: weaving a net of care as a specialist practitioner. Community Practitioner, 87(6), 29-33. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy apollolibrary.com/docview/1535122464/abstract?accountid=458 Health of the homeless. (2014, October). The Lancet, 384(9953), .doi:10.1016/S0140- 6736(14)61924-3
U.S. department of health and human services. (2014). Retrieved from http://homeless.samhsa.gov/resource/changes-in -the-hud-definition-of- %E2%80%9Chomeless%E2%80%9D-48582.aspx
Wen, C., Hudak, P., & Hwang, S. (2007, April). Homeless people’s perception of welcomeness and unwelcomeness in healthcare encounters. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 22(7), 1011-1014. doi:10.1007/s11606-007-0183-7