Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Living on the Edge: StFX Rankin School of Nursing students take part in simulation of what it’s like to live in poverty

September 27th, 2018
Senior Rankin School of Nursing students participate in the Living on the Edge simulation, experiencing what it's like to live on the brink of poverty

The doors into the world of a person living in poverty in Nova Scotia opened wide for nearly 120 fourth year Rankin School of Nursing students on Sept. 27 as senior Community Health nursing students stepped into Mount St. Bernard’s Chapel classroom and into the persona of someone living on the edge. 

The Rankin School of Nursing teamed with the United Way Halifax to offer the simulation experience called Living on the Edge as a required course in the curriculum that finishes this year.

The intent is to help student participants and future nurses see the world from a different perspective that haven’t experienced poverty before, says Rankin School Assistant Director Dr. Debbie Sheppard-LeMoine.

“They will spend an hour experiencing one month living on the edge of poverty in a simulated environment through role playing, where each student takes on an assigned role a family member or a community service provider,” Dr. Sheppard-LeMoine says. 

“Most of the participants will be assigned a role in a scenario as part of a family unit or as a single person and they are given the task to get through the month using the resources they have.”

“It’s what it’s like to live on the brink of poverty,” says Daniel Blacquiere, donor engagement officer with the United Way Halifax, and one of the facilitators. 

“It showcases the reality that people face.” 

Mr. Blacquiere says the experience is designed to build empathy and understanding of what it’s like to live in poverty in Nova Scotia, and also to work towards helping close that gap. 

Poverty, he says, can affect anyone. Sometimes it is easy to recognize, sometimes not. Many people, he says, are living one paycheque, one circumstance, away from financial crisis. It’s something that can happen to anyone.  

“It’s a really good learning experience,” says Dr. Sheppard-LeMoine. “It’s a creative way to make it real.” 

Mr. Blacquiere says the United of Way Halifax has been offering the simulation experience, which started in Missouri, to businesses and universities for the last three years. All the data has been updated to reflect Nova Scotia, he says. 

“It’s designed to be a little uncomfortable, a little stressed. The debrief, that’s when we see the aha moment. It’s really powerful.”

Offering the experience to nursing students is such a perfect fit, he says. In their careers, nurses will often deal with people who face these issues. 

“A stroke of bad luck could put anyone over the edge,” says facilitator Lisa Buchanan, United Way Halifax development research officer.  

“Imagine yourself in the shoes of the folks who may experience this.” 

 

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