UCF nursing students on a recent bus tour of Apopka.
UCF nursing students on a recent bus tour of Apopka.

During the first week of school, UCF’s first-semester nursing students go out into the community in their designated Community Nursing Coalition clinical groups.

The students are assigned the task of using the public transportation bus system to navigate the community. This inital exercise allows them to become better acquainted with the area they will serve during their student nurse careers while enrolled in UCF’s nursing program.

“Most of these students have never had to rely on public transportation, but the patients they will be caring for probably use the bus daily,” notes Dr. Pamela Ark, coordinator of the college’s service-learning Community Nursing Coalitions (CNC) program.

The eager students print bus routes and time schedules trying to prepare for their tour. The route takes them to several major sites in their assigned community, including health care centers, shopping plazas, and local schools and churches. If one bus is late, or if the students fail to board on time, their planned route for the day would need to be carefully mapped out again. Cautious to board the correct buses in the correct locations, the students navigate the area with a greater understanding and appreciation of their patients who probably travel by public transit.

The free health care services offered by UCF’s nursing students are sometimes the only chance some locals have to receive a blood pressure reading or body mass index assessment. The important services offered to the community will greatly improve the quality of life for most.

“Members of the community instantly recognize our nursing students and greet them with respect and appreciation,” explains Erica Hoyt, a nursing clinical instructor for the college’s Apopka CNC. “In the community, their nursing uniforms signal to others that they are there to help.” The students answer questions about their program and happily chat with the patrons on the buses. On a recent bus tour of the Apopka community, one young lady inquired about how she could return to school and become a nurse herself. “It is clear the people in the community feel comfortable reaching out to our students and asking for help,” says Hoyt.

“After taking the bus tour around our community, my clinical group and I got a better understanding of the community and people that we have the opportunity to work with in Apopka,” says UCF nursing student Chelsea Wallace. “The bus ride made me realize that not everyone can afford their own transportation, let alone health care or the treatment that they may need.”

This exercise is a testament to the students’ dedication to the community and their willingness to learn notes Dr. Ark. “By ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’, the student nurses are able to better understand the obstacles that may be in place for some people who attend the free health care events,” she says. “They are now able to understand why a patient may be late, frustrated and overheated after navigating the city all day and experiencing multiple bus transfers,” adds Hoyt. UCF’s nursing students continue to gain trust in the community and to inspire others with their generosity and kind nature toward others.

Contributing Writer/Photographer: Heather Robbins, communications intern