The scene of community gatherings on the West Side -- the Neighborhood Place in the 3000 block of Rivas -- is where dozens of nursing students from the UT Health Science Center were put through a “poverty simulation" on Monday.
Organizers said the idea was for students to learn the realities of their future patients’ lives through role-playing.
Some were put in groups, or “families,” while others portrayed single parents, disabled adults, the homeless -- each with their own predicament or crisis.
One of the students became an 85-year-old woman living on the streets and unable to get what she needed at a community clinic.
She said, “They told me to look on the computer. I don’t have a computer. I don’t know what it is. I just need my medicine filled.”
Using play money, students had to stretch every dollar, even when there was nothing left.
A student role-playing as a “grandmother” was forced to pawn the family TV.
“That’s a luxury. We can’t afford it,” she told the students playing her "grandchild."
Students also had to find jobs, keep from being evicted or their electricity turned off, buy groceries, bus passes, and try to keep their kids healthy and in school.
Marion Donohoe, assistant professor of nursing, said understanding the stress of poverty will help students someday pose questions with more sensitivity.
Donohoe said by doing so, “The person will actually trust the health care provider and give them the truth of how they’re living.”
One of the students said, “It gives me a bigger picture of everything they’re going through, what it takes to make it through a week, a month.”