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Citizen nurses: A unique perspective on health

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In our society today, people have become so medicalized that we often forget that health is not about the absence of disease but a place of belonging. At Augsburg College, the Department of Nursing has focused on returning to what nursing was originally intended to be about—relationships—by opening two drop-in community health centers.

One of these centers provides care to people living on the streets of Minneapolis. This center has been in existence for almost 20 years, and the nurses there engage with 120 people each week. We listen, provide basic necessities, and take the time to make sure people feel they are supported and are part of a community.

Our other drop-in center, the Health Commons at Dar Ul-Quba, is a new project focused on immigrant health in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Our efforts at Dar Ul-Quba have been about trying to help people not only to understand our healthcare system but also to realize how they can practice health and healing as they did in their country of origin. The center also helps people come together to create the change they want to see in their neighborhood.

To us, being citizen nurses means that we are working to strengthen our communities in ways that avoid the expert model. We see people as collaborators and co-creators. Through their experiences at the drop-in centers, Augsburg nursing students are changing their worldviews in ways that benefit our society. Our hope is to continue to do just that.

KATIE CLARK is an instructor in Augsburg’s nursing department and serves as coordinator of the Augsburg Nursing Center.

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