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Providing Care for Chicopee's Homeless
"Having worked in street clinics in Boston, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, I know how important it is to bring healthcare to the homeless rather than asking them to come to you," said Brother Michael Duffy, M.S., R.N., A.N.P-B.C.
Br. Michael is Elms College's coordinator of the accelerated second degree in nursing program and an assistant clinical professor. He's also a Franciscan Friar, and will graduate from Regis College in May 2013 with his Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). One of the requirements is a capstone project that encourages DNP candidates to apply their previous nursing experience and classroom knowledge to a fully implemented project.
Along with his advisory team–Cheryl Sheils, Ed.D., R.N., associate professor of nursing, and Deacon Joseph Peters of the Basilica of St. Stanislaus in Chicopee–Br. Michael knew he wanted his project to involve working with the poor and underserved people of Chicopee. He also knew that he wanted this project to become a long-term benefit to both the people it served and future Elms nursing students who would benefit from this hands-on experience.
"I had my eye on the parking lot of the former CVS on Exchange Street for quite some time, but it wasn't until I went to a friend's house for dinner and saw an RV for sale in their driveway that I realized how to bring my project to life," said Br. Michael.
The friend agreed to hold the RV until the proposed project was officially approved. Then, Br. Michael needed to determine how to convert it into a mobile nursing unit, and decide where its services would be most beneficial to the community.
Br. Michael met with Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette to secure permission to use the parking lot. Not only did the mayor approve Br. Michael's request, he gave him suggestions as to where to park the caRe vaN–places close to where the homeless populations are higher.
With only the funding left to sort out, Br. Michael applied for several grants through the Franciscan Friars, and received ones from the St. Anthony of Padua Mission Aid, Toronto, Canada; St. Anthony's Bread, Ellicott City, Md., and St. Anthony of Padua Province, USA. He approached Peter Pan Bus Lines for a paint job on the caRe vaN, but ended up with a fully renovated mobile nursing unit.
"My aunt, Sr. Peter Maria Picknelly, was a Sister of St. Joseph, and Elms College was an important part of her life until she passed away in 2008," said Peter A. Picknelly, Peter Pan Bus Lines chairman and CEO. "The caRe vaN is a great asset to the community, and a terrific idea that we are happy to support."
Beginning on January 13, the caRe vaN will provide free healthcare to the homeless and underserved of Chicopee, including blood pressure checks and monitoring, blood sugar checks, foot care, episodic first aid, minor wound care, patient education on these and other topics, and other healthcare needs that may arise. Br. Michael and three accelerated BSN students will provide services in the former CVS parking lot from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. every Sunday. He and four traditional undergraduate nursing students will do the same parked outside Lorraine's Soup Kitchen and Pantry 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.
To view photos of the blessing and ribbon cutting ceremony, click here.