Since the beginning of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, Philadelphia residents have been afflicted with higher rates of drug overdoses, a worsening opioid epidemic, and the spread of infectious diseases. Particularly within North Philadelphia and West Philadelphia, there was a significant increase in the prevalence of substance use disorder and drug overdoses during the pandemic, particularly among Black and Latinx Philadelphians. Substance use disorders (SUD) are heavily correlated with the social determinants of health which prevents persons who inject drugs (PWID) from receiving care. Similarly, the positive correlation between SUD and viral hepatitis causes numerous barriers to care due to ineffective resource allocation along with social, behavioral, and environmental factors.
To mitigate the ramifications of this on COVID-19 and viral hepatitis infectious disease outbreaks, the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC) Viral Hepatitis Team implemented a pilot nursing clinical rotation program in partnership with Philadelphia Hepatitis Outreach Project (PHOP) and associated organization, Rock Wellness Ministries. Our partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) Nursing Program allowed for the hand selection of nursing students to be placed with PHOP and Rock Wellness to provide much needed community outreach services to high-risk community members in the Kensington area. Through this project evaluation we determined the two rounds of clinical rotations to be a huge success for the students, program administrators, and the community.
With this opportunity, nursing students have direct, hands-on experience to provide viral hepatitis outreach to community members, engaging them from a trauma-informed, compassionate lens. Students have the opportunity to expand outreach to community members, offer vital signs and screenings, provide health care resources and referrals, and link participants to HCV rapid tests.
NNCC’s partnership with CCP, PHOP, and Rock Wellness will continue and provide an opportunity to replicate the clinical rotation program with other nursing programs. Program administrators and stakeholders have shared a similar excitement about the project. One Preceptor commented, "We are so happy the rotation at Rock Wellness went so well for the first 6 weeks...the students raved about their experience." Another shared similar thoughts, saying they had "a wonderful experience" with the students who joined the summer rotation.
The exposure nursing students receive when they’re providing direct services to a population of people who use drugs allows them to provide a meaningful trauma-informed, harm reduction approach to care. As we move toward expanding upon the clinical rotation program, our goal is to not only provide nursing students with a meaningful experience, but to also use lessons learned and best practices to provide quality improvement measures to better serve high-risk communities in the Philadelphia area.
You can read the full project evaluation below: