In the morning of October 30th, we went to the China Town Senior Residential Living Facility to hold our Health Fair activity. There were about 50 residents who attended the event and all of them spoke Chinese. That afternoon of the same day, we proceeded to the YWCA Apartments for Seniors which was also located in China Town. About 40 residents participated and they also spoke Chinese. During both health fairs, I performed for a presentation on Nutrition. So what I did, I was dressed in Banana costume, distributed brochures that listed the benefits of eating banana and handed out bananas which the audience gladly consumed.
I believe those activities were helpful because it taught the seniors about Nutrition which is now critical relative to their age and health status. Nevertheless, it would have been more effective had I written and translated my brochures in Chinese. As most of them are purely Chinese-speaking, they could grasp the contents of my brochure more thoroughly if it were written in their local language. Generally, however, the events were successful.
Above all, what is important in health fairs are the learning that student nurses get from the experience in the community. The population I served was Chinese senior citizens. Since most did not speak English, I had difficulty in communicating with them. Nevertheless, I tried to impart health teachings that would be of great use to them. I saw from their relatively small eyes that they need attention and nurturing. Then I began to think it was due to the different environment they are living in. In a very faraway place like the United States, a residential home at that, these Chinese nationals are probably homesick and distant from their families who give them the care they actually need.
Being placed in a residential facility like this one has allowed them though to be surrounded by other people their age, which can keep them company and company staff that can provide them with resources they need to survive. For me, however, supplying them with physiological needs are not enough. Yes, for survival, but they also need security, comfort and love which only their families and loved ones can offer. These are emotional and psychological needs. At the spur-of-the-moment, I wished I could be there longer — long enough to try giving them the care they deserved.
Inasmuch as I wanted to extend my help and support, communication was the ultimate barrier as I have said earlier. Sharing of information was limited because we could not understand each other fairly well. We need to supplement words with actions so that they can fully comprehend and their old age has also contributed to the obstacle. Some seniors had hearing problems and some had poor eyesight. But within me, I did not give up. I wanted to try harder. If given the opportunity, I would have learned Chinese so that I could be a more efficient educator to them.
From a personal perspective, I have realized the importance of community and taking care of our seniors. A strong community builds a strong nation that is why we have to make our community members as strong. By giving ample care for our seniors, we are also taking care of ourselves because all of us will become seniors someday. I look forward that future student nurses shall also educate me on health issues when I become a senior. This is a give and take relationship. What I do for the seniors today will be given to me in return when the right time comes.
The senior population is marginalized and often neglected when viewing the community as a whole. Presently, our seniors are encountering problems with their insurances and health care opportunities which should not be the case. Our seniors are fragile and delicate so they must be cared for unconditionally. As a student nurse, my role in the community cannot be undermined. I serve as an instrument to reach out to our senior population. The society should also give its fair share of their responsibilities for the seniors. Further, the governmental line agencies on health and social welfare should promote programs for the senior population so that they may continue to develop despite old age and with limited capacities.
Community health nursing has awakened a number of my personal insights. I would be a hypocrite if I say I have always been passionate with the senior population. It took those two experiences in China Town to perk up my concerns for the elderly. I became suddenly aware that these people too have their needs and roles to fulfill in the community and these they cannot do without the help of concerned people, just like me. It felt good to be needed. It felt good to share what you know with others.
Psych Nursing is about educating people from diverse cultures and walks of life. This service learning experience should be a part of Psych Nursing because we ought to develop healthy communities which include the senior Chinese population. In order to do this, there is a need to educate our members with wholesome lifestyles, self-care and various health information. More importantly, learning is facilitated two-way. They learn from me, I learn from them in the process.
Negative perceptions may come from the community. People on the outside may think that these people are too old and it may be too late to improve their health. Some may even see us student nurses as merely completing a school requirement in order to graduate. Some may even think we are wasting our time.
The above criticisms cannot be helped, however, it can be changed. Change does not take overnight. It is a slow process and patience is a necessity. Little things like what we did during our Health Fair are significant to alter these pessimisms from the outside. But above all, what is important is the difference we make for our community, particularly the Chinese senior citizens. I felt proud that even in simple ways, we made their day special and unique from all the other regular days they had. It is an indescribable feeling. All I know is that it felt awfully good to make a difference in the lives of others.
If I were in charge of this project, I would have included Chinese-speaking nursing students as teachers for effective communication. After all, what is important is that the information is conveyed perfectly. Even though we had a translator and a few of my colleagues spoke Chinese, I notice we lost their attention by having to translate everything. It was a very awkward scene honestly speaking. It was difficult for us to connect with them and that made our purpose quite a failure in that aspect.
“Volunteering” for me means to render services for free without anything in return. Further, it implies wholehearted work for others without compensation or payment. I felt satisfied and full of pride with the service we did for the Chinese seniors because we gave them generously. I felt fulfilled not only as a student nurse but by the person that I am because I was able to serve other people. It was an opportunity and a privilege which is not given just to anybody but to special people like me.
As a nurse, I am expected to deliver health care services to those who need them regardless of race, social and economic status and many other factors. If I become a professional nurse in the future, I must be prepared to give this service. Community health service like the one we recently rendered in China Town is a viable training in preparation for the nursing profession. Experience is badly needed to become a proficient nurse. Not only that, this service area can also serve as proper training ground for other professions.
Finally, the community experience we had was a memorable one because of the way it made me mature emotionally. It made me a better person and a devoted student nurse. I am more encouraged to pursue the nursing profession and hopefully, I will become a good one.