When people think about the Coachella Valley, they probably think about lush golf courses, country clubs, beautiful restaurants, endless shopping and high-end hotels, resorts and spas.
While this is true, and the Coachella Valley is home to many wealthy residents and celebrities, many people struggle with basic needs such as healthcare.
That’s why in 2018, Diane Vines, a nursing instructor at Cal State San Bernardino and its Palm Desert Campus, created the Street Medicine program to provide much-needed healthcare services to people in the Coachella Valley who might otherwise go to an emergency room for issues that can be treated out in the community.
CSUSB nursing administrators and faculty have been able to develop and sustain a quality nursing program that not only gives CSUSB students direct and impactful clinical engagement, but also benefits people in the community who are among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations – those who are experiencing homelessness or a lack of housing stability.
At Street Medicine clinics around the Coachella Valley, CSUSB nursing faculty and students provide many vital services including:
- Taking blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood glucose level, oxygen levels, breath and lung sounds;
- Wound care and supplies for self-care;
- Medication management, chronic disease management, health promotion and education;
- Therapeutic communication with people with mental health and addiction challenges;
- Referrals/appointments for follow-up care;
- When available and with partners, administration of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations; and
- Distribution of hygiene products, clothing, shoes, socks, sunscreen, sunglasses, lotion, hand sanitizer, shampoo and soap.
The Street Medicine program is having profound impacts on CSUSB nursing students.
“The Street Medicine program has allowed me to experience the simultaneous acts of academic focus and volunteerism, something I didn't realize could be done together in a sustainable way,” said Michelle Rodriguez, a senior at the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus. “Serving the vulnerable populations of the Coachella Valley via this program is a direct and tangible way to support every person in this community. I have gained clinical and leadership skills that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience as a student. Additionally, the support and mentorship from the faculty and community partners has been exceptional.”
Genevieve Marruffo, also a senior nursing student at the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus who has been volunteering with the Street Medicine program since 2018, agrees.
“Volunteering with the Street Medicine program has been an eye-opening experience with unlimited opportunities to grow as a nursing student,” said Marruffo. “The program has helped me develop confidence, compassion and commitment. The work is collaborative among nursing students and medical residents, which helps to provide more sufficient care to vulnerable populations. The overall work is fulfilling and uplifting to be able to provide basic healthcare to the homeless population in the Coachella Valley.”
To allow the Street Medicine program to continue providing these much-needed services, many organizations have made generous monetary and in-kind gifts, including the CW Fund, Verizon Foundation, Desert Healthcare Foundation, Desert Regional Medical Center, Regional Access Project Foundation and Bank of America. The program has also received institutional support from CSUSB.
Participants of the Street Medicine program have garnered recognition, awards, publicity and letters of appreciation, and the program has proven to be so successful, it has expanded from the Coachella Valley to San Bernardino in order to serve more people. It has made major impacts on both CSUSB nursing students and the communities they serve.
The Street Medicine program is a collaborative partnership between the CSUSB Department of Nursing at the Palm Desert Campus, the University of California, Riverside School of Medicine, Desert Regional Medical Center, Well in the Desert, and the Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine.
For more information about the Street Medicine program, contact Diane Vines at firstname.lastname@example.org.