Health Care Without Walls’ medical education initiative ‘The Partnership for Free Health Care for Homeless Women’ instructs nursing and medical students, as well as medical residents about the healthcare needs and health consequences of poverty and homelessness.
This interdisciplinary training program is a popular elective for students, and is held collaboratively with Harvard Medical School. Under the supervision of HCWW’s Chief Medical Officer, the students work together as part of the medical care team.
Each trainee receives a copy of “Medical Care for Homeless Women: A Curriculum for Novice Providers,” written by Health Care Without Walls. Through this program HCWW prepares clinicians to be compassionate caregivers who are skilled at meeting the needs of the underserved, emphasizing the important role of volunteerism as a way to effect social change.
“By observing the work of Health Care Without Walls, I gained both a greater understanding of and more critical eye toward the way in which our society treats homeless and low-income people, especially women. I saw how social safety nets fell apart for people due to a lost job, loved one, or lack of social support from family and friends.
“Furthermore, I saw how these social factors contributed both directly and indirectly to health concerns. For example, when a person is walking around all day in the summer heat and cannot afford to wash or purchase a new pair of socks, their feet suffer. This problem is compounded by the fact that many shelters kick people out for the day, leaving them little choice but to stay on their injured and hurting feet. Seeing the relief that things as simple as removing calluses and giving a new pair of socks can bring to a person was both impressive and saddening.
“Many of these women are unlikely to stop needing the basic health care Health Care Without Walls provides for them, and I’m not sure I have the words to describe how wonderful it is to provide this care without expecting more in return than knowing how critical this help has been.
“While my work with Health Care Without Walls is done, I know the impact of this experience will stay with me always.”Medical Student