The “Innovations in Social Mobility: Workforce Development” award is an initiative of the Social Innovations Journal.
Community College of Philadelphia has announced that in January 2021, its nursing program was presented with the “Innovations in Social Mobility: Workforce Development” award powered by the Social Innovations Journal. In line with the 2021 awards theme, “Achieving a More Just Society,” the nursing program received this award due to its rapid development and mobilization of an innovative program to care for Philadelphia’s most vulnerable residents during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Under the leadership of Laureen Tavolaro-Ryley, associate professor of nursing and the Dr. Andrea Mengel Independence Foundation chair in Nursing at the College, interns with the Independence Foundation quickly organized to partner with local agencies where underserved groups gathered.
Tavolaro-Ryley was able to secure funding from the foundation to pay current students and May 2020 graduates in the summer and throughout spring 2021.
Interns worked to screen and test for COVID-19, while also offering education and supplies to more than 5,000 people in Philadelphia.
“During a time when we need them most, the College is extremely proud of the selflessness and sacrifice our Nursing faculty and students have demonstrated throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Donald Guy Generals, College president. “Our nursing students receive a first-class education with countless opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field, while also serving their community. We are pleased that they are taking advantage of these opportunities to serve, while also leading the way in providing critical treatment and assistance to those who need it most.”
Tavolaro-Ryley says students were particularly able to provide care to Philadelphia’s homeless and food insecure populations. Through the lens of community-based health care, she says it is much easier to keep people healthy than to wait until they get sick. Faculty and staff often call the program a “health center without walls.”
“With the College’s Nursing department being one of the first in the nation to include community-based care in a curriculum for an associate degree program, it is a critical part of the student experience,” Tavolaro-Ryley said. “Many of our students are from the community and often return there to work. They go off to serve as trusted messengers in providing evidence-based health care data to vulnerable communities. This has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when there has been some suspicion in Black and brown communities regarding vaccines based on historical and lived experiences.”
In the past, students have partnered with nurses from the School District of Philadelphia to screen for asthma in students and provided blood pressure screenings for low-income communities. In February 2020, they worked to tackle the opioid crisis head-on by recruiting patients for health care services, increasing awareness about Narcan, and connecting patients with opioid use disorder to medication-assisted treatment at local health centers.
Tavolaro-Ryley soon anticipates that students will have the opportunity to assist in administering COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with various organizations.