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Alverno College nursing students work toward healthier communities

Alverno undergraduate and graduate nursing students, along with college faculty, partnered with the Milwaukee Area Health Education Center to assist high-need Milwaukee neighborhoods with information about the coronavirus and to provide access to the COVID-19 vaccine.


“This is grassroots community health nursing,” said Kirsten Lezama, an assistant professor of nursing in the JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing and Health Professions. “People have been saying: ‘I never would have been vaccinated if you hadn’t come to my door.’”


Porsha Brown, a student in the direct entry Master of Science in nursing program (DEMSN), is biracial and has lived in some of the predominantly African American communities that the nursing students visited. “If I have the education and the knowledge, there is nothing more I would want to do than spread that knowledge to people me and my family closely relate to,” she said.


Students worked to build trust with the community and provide information in a nonjudgmental manner.


“We are not forcing anybody to do anything. Our job as nurses is to give people the right information so they can make informed decisions about their health,” said Lezama.


Over the summer, 27 DEMSN students helped community health workers vaccinate nearly 400 residents in their homes.


In the fall, undergraduate nursing students connected with Hispanic residents in Milwaukee’s south side, allowing students like Ruby Perla Ortiz to put their bilingual skills to work. “I was able to help break the language barrier and aid in keeping the community safe by providing education and addressing unanswered questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccination,” she said.


Classmate Isabel Colón was inspired to propose her family’s restaurant as a site for a mobile vaccination clinic. On a chilly Tuesday in November, eight more people received their COVID-19 vaccine.