Nova Scotia

Student-run health centre will turn to church supper to help find clients

Students from Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University and paramedic college Medavie HealthEd are launching the Halifax Outreach Prevention Education Support (HOPES) health centre.

New program brings together students from variety of disciplines to help low-income people access health care

Braydon Connell and Heather Webster say the centre will give students the opportunity to get hands-on experience. (CBC)

From occupational therapy to dentistry, students from an array of health-care programs are combining forces to bring their growing expertise right to the Sunday dinner table of some of Halifax's homeless.

Students from Dalhousie University, Mount Saint Vincent University and paramedic college Medavie HealthEd are launching the Halifax Outreach Prevention Education Support (HOPES) health centre in the coming weeks.

Part of the program involves junior students doing health promotion and education during a free Sunday supper at St. Andrew's United Church on Robie Street. Senior students will offer primary care services at a nearby location.

The aim is to give low-income and homeless people better access to health services — such as occupational therapy and nutrition — that aren't as easily accessed through the public system, said Braydon Connell, a second-year medical student and one of the co-executive directors of the project.

"We do see that as a major benefit in terms of what our health centre could offer the community," he told CBC's Information Morning.

The health promotion work at St. Andrew's United Church in Halifax will coincide with a free weekly supper for the homeless. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Two Sunday locations

The project, which has been in the works for more than three years, will give students the chance to be involved with "a community we're not always exposed to," said Connell.

The first St. Andrew's Sunday supper students will attend is Feb. 5. They will be at the church between 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

Primary care services begin Feb. 12 and will be available Sundays from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dalhousie Student Health Services location at LeMarchant and South streets. While HOPES is operating out of the Dalhousie Student Health Services space, it's providing services independently from Dalhousie Student Health Services.

This is "an incredible opportunity to have hands-on experience," said Heather Webster, project co-executive director and a health administration and law student.

More than 200 students from medicine, nursing, dentistry, dietetics, occupational therapy, social work, paramedicine, pharmacy and health administration volunteered to participate, but there is currently only room for 150.

The goal is to eventually operate the centre one evening during the week as well. 

An orientation session for the 150 students who will be volunteering at the student-run health centre. (Jelsi Mynott)

Learning to work together

The mix of disciplines in the centre will be a good lesson in "how to work together," Connell said.

Hopefully the students, who are being asked to volunteer for a minimum of four shifts each term, can then carry those lessons forward as they embark on their careers, he said.

Licensed professionals will be on hand to supervise the students work and "make sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing," Webster said.

While they currently have enough preceptors — or teachers — to run the centre, Connell said they're always looking for more volunteers "to share the load."

With files from the CBC's Information Morning