Northern Kentucky University's Nurse Advocacy Center for the Underserved (NACU) is a program, co-funded by NKU and external partners, that places experienced nurses in communities comprised of underserved populations. Because lack of access to quality health care is common to low-income areas, community members often don't understand how to use the health-care system and either forego important care or visit the ER by default. NACU, in partnership with local clinics, makes health care services and education accessible to these underserved groups.
Among the sites NACU services are the Brighton Recovery Center in Florence, a residence-based recovery program for women suffering from addiction; Madison Avenue Christian Church in Covington, serving inner-city homeless populations; a clinic at Turfway in Florence, which cares for immigrant workers at the racetrack; and City Heights Health Initaitive in Covington, providing care to poverty-stricken communities.
The sites also serve as a training ground for undergraduate nursing students, who often haven't experienced firsthand the health effects of poverty on underserved communities.
"It’s an opportunity for mainly undergraduate RN students to have a community site for their clinicals," says NACU director, Roxanne Galls, adding that Madison Christian Church hosts the largest group of students. "They work with the homeless population in Covington. Right now they’re getting ready to set up a well-foot care clinic for the homeless population. We see people whose nails haven’t been trimmed in six months, so we get them that initial assessment and try to prevent complications such as ulcers and potential loss of limb."
Galls says that securing money to continue serving these communties is a constant challenge, and site workers' dedication is a main driver in the program's operations.
"Funding is always an issue at all of the sites," she says. "Lots of hours are given by the staff. They do a tremendous job, contributing numerous hours of volunteer time in addition to their paid time."