How to Educate Yourself on Vulnerable Populations in New Locations
For certain populations across the United States, access to healthcare is limited due to expense, availability and lack of medical insurance. These populations often exhibit high rates of untreated and potential undiagnosed conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and mental health disorders.
If you're a travel nurse beginning an assignment in an unfamiliar region, you might find yourself at a disadvantage when working with the most vulnerable populations in the area. By educating yourself on the unique needs, beliefs and challenges of these groups, you can provide more effective treatment and can make a difference in the lives of these at-risk populations.
Identifying Vulnerable Populations
Vulnerable populations aren't limited by geography, and travel nurses visiting both urban and rural areas see at-risk groups. According to the American Journal of Managed Care, these groups may include:
- People who are disabled or chronically ill
- Low-income and homeless individuals
- Geographically isolated people
- The very old and the very young
- The LGBTQ+ population
For some of these populations, healthcare issues may be exacerbated by illiteracy, fear of discrimination, ineffective communication skills and a lack of transportation or stable shelter, factors which may make it even more difficult for individuals to seek out medical care and follow through with prescribed treatments. The growing nursing shortage may also be a contributing factor in access to care.
The Importance Of Education
Travel nurses serve an important role when it comes to vulnerable populations. By adding valuable staffing to regions suffering from nursing shortages, they're creating care opportunities that may not otherwise be available.
Still, understanding these at-risk groups is vital to ensuring that every patient gets the care he needs. That's one reason why education is so important for travel nurses who may be working with vulnerable populations. Educating yourself in advance of your assignment can mean:
- Increased sensitivity to patient needs
- The ability to react appropriately in an emergency situation, particularly when religious beliefs are in conflict with medical procedures
- The opportunity to direct patients toward essential, possibly life-saving, social and medical services
- Increased follow-through on the part of at-risk patients
While it's impossible to become an expert in all aspects of vulnerable populations, particularly on short-term assignments, you should make your education touches on several important areas.
One important part of treating vulnerable populations is being able to steer patients toward services designed to defray healthcare costs, arrange transportation and housing and provide low-cost mental health services. Because programs can vary widely among regions, it's vital to understand what services are available to these populations and how to help patients navigate the complicated pathways to receiving them.
Many regions are home to religious communities with beliefs that can potentially conflict with life-saving treatments. As a travel nurse, it's vital to learn how to care for patients while respecting their belief systems. This may include researching what treatments are acceptable to the religious community and how to communicate with sensitivity so you can be an effective liaison between the physician and the patient.