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CMU Nursing Students Work to Promote Health Equity in Colorado

At the beginning of the semester, a group of senior nursing students at CMU began working on a project that transcended the boundaries of their typical assignments. Their goal: to produce a compelling video that highlights the important role nurses play in advocating for health equity.

Health equity is described as an effort to ensure everyone has a fair opportunity to maintain their highest level of health, regardless of background or socioeconomic status.

The students — Morgan Whittaker, Sydney Stanley, Marissa Stahl, Christian Hafey and Shelby Taylor — were led by Department of Health Sciences Director and Associate Professor of Nursing Lucy Graham, PhD, to immerse themselves in a journey that would further shape their understanding of health equity and leave a lasting impression on the Colorado healthcare community.

The students visited a nurse-led clinic called Pathways for their project. Pathways is embedded within a women and family shelter for people experiencing homelessness. There, they captured the stories of patients navigating the complex intersection of homelessness, healthcare and social determinants of health.

Through intimate interviews, they created a video that shed light on the challenges faced by homeless individuals grappling with a wide range of physical and mental health matters.

For the group, the project reached far beyond checking off academic requirements for a school assignment. It became a labor of love and a representation of their commitment to compassionate care.

“It was so rewarding. We spent quite a few hours each day just listening to these patients' stories. Doing that was impactful for us,” said Whittaker. “Not only was it impactful for us, listening to and sharing their stories meant the world to them. Experiencing homeless is not something that should be frowned upon, it's just a circumstance that happened to them. It's not the definition of what they are,” Stahl added.

Looking ahead, the students are eager to share their creation with nurse leaders across Colorado, thanks to a partnership with the Colorado Action Coalition at the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence (CCNE).

They hope nurses across Colorado will be inspired to advocate for their patients and become champions of health equity. Their goal is to start a conversation about how nurses who lead equity efforts can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

“We want nurses to watch this video and see that, as a nurse, you are the greatest advocate for your patients, more than the patient is for themselves,” said Hafey.

Soon, the video will live on the CCNE’s website for nurse leaders and the public to view. Reflecting on the journey of the video from the start of the semester to present day, Graham's pride in her students is undeniable.

“Being able to see where they took the project and how they're using the patient’s stories makes me exceptionally proud. It's really artfully done,” said Graham. 

Thanks to their time spent in the nursing program, they all feel they’re extremely prepared for their futures as nursing professionals.

“The CMU nursing program has done a great job of providing us with opportunities to see all types of care settings. It provided a wide range of opportunities to dip our toes in and see the bigger picture,” said Hafey. “Clinicals bring light to things that I would have never thought patients experienced or that was a part of nursing, so I think the exposure to everything was helpful,” Stanley added.

All five of the students involved in the project graduated from CMU this month. As they begin their nursing careers, they hope their efforts with this project extend far beyond campus.  

To learn more about health equity efforts in Colorado, visit the Colorado Action Coalition page on the CCNE website.


Written by Amber Whisman