A Day at Hacienda Townhomes

This post is written by 2nd year student and guest writer, Marisa Katsman


Throughout the last two semesters we have been able to spend our clinical hours at Hacienda Townhomes, a low-income housing facility in southeast San Diego.  We have worked closely with the residents and manager, Miss Cassandra, to educate, celebrate, and empower the Hacienda community.   These townhomes have 51 units; one being dedicated to the manager and one for a handicapped resident.  The population is approximately 90% Hispanic, 5% African-American and 5% Caucasian.  With about 200 residents (90 adults and 110 children), the community here is diverse, yet inclusive and friendly.  Most of the residents are family members.  Cousins, siblings, and friends play on the old, hot metal playground while the moms generally mingle and sit with Miss Cassandra.  There is a strong sense of community here at Hacienda and as “the nurses” we have tried to build trusting and strong relationships with all the residents.

Most of our day is spent on education.  We have touched healthcare topics ranging from sun safety, water safety, blood pressure, stroke, fire safety, depression, and cancer.  We create engaging posters and fliers that allow clients to get visuals and reminders throughout the week.  We hold educational events and invite all the residents to attend.


One of our favorite events focused on healthy eating and exercise.  With the kids, we made healthy smoothies and healthy Popsicles filled with fruits and vegetables.  After our cooking lesson we did some dancing, stretching, and hoola hooping.  This event stressed the importance of being active and eating healthy to grow a strong heart and healthy bones.

Another resident favorite was ‘Meet a Cop’ day.  On this day, we had Officer Ed come speak with the kids and parents.  After his presentation, he let the kids look in his police car.  This was a great experience because it allowed the residents to speak to a policeman in a non-intimidating way.  He explained the importance of safety, the law, and overall following your dreams.  One of the residences even stated, “I want to be a police officer when I grow up”.


Beyond educational events, we provide weekly blood pressure screenings for the residents and encourage them to keep track of their blood pressure.  Many of residents did not know what the blood pressure numbers meant and how it related to their health and were happy when it was explained to them.  We encourage residents to visit doctors and modify their lifestyles if their BPs were higher than normal.

In order to increase resident participation, we included an “Ask the Nurse” box.  This allows the kids and parents to anonymously ask the nurses any questions.  We found this extremely beneficial on both ends.  It allowed us to get a better idea of what the residents were interested in as well as allowed the residents to ask anything on their minds.  Most of the questions revolved around weight loss and healthy eating habits.  We even had questions from the kids regarding puberty and body changes.  We answered the questions honestly and appropriately and gave the answers in an envelope.  The kids looked forward to their letters from the nurses every week.

Overall our time at Hacienda Townhomes has been impactful not only to the residents but to us as well.  Throughout this next semester we have more education events planned, and even plan on making a trip to the local elementary school where most of the children attend.  By going to this school, we will get a better idea of the education the children are receiving, the support they have at school, the recess facilities, and the food system. Through this experience we have learned about this diverse community and the ways in which we can make a difference in the lives of those living at Hacienda Townhomes.



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MEPNs win Dan Gross Scholarship

This post is written by 2nd year MEPN Christina Baxter

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Christina Baxter, MEPN Class of 2019

The Dan L. Gross Scholarship of 2017 was awarded to Karina Ochoa, (MEPN graduating class of 2018 and currently working in the SICU at Sharp Memorial) and me, Christina Baxter, Sharp Memorial Hospital pathology lab technician and 2nd year MEPN student at USD.

The scholarship is named in honor of Dan Gross, RN, DNSc, executive vice president for Sharp Health Care, who started his clinical nursing role at Sharp in 1979 and earned his DNSc at USD. Dan Gross continues to demonstrate exponential leadership driven by compassion for Sharp Healthcare year after year. The scholarship award of $2,500 is designed to help provide economic stability to nursing students interested in similar leadership goals and outcomes.

When I first saw the email advertising the Dan Gross Scholarship, I said to myself, “Might as well take a stab at it.” I have been a Sharp Healthcare employee for three years. I thought I was taking a shot in the dark, but I am living proof, it’s not impossible to win a scholarship! Karina and I couldn’t agree more, there’s no better feeling than receiving the congratulations letter.

The best part of the scholarship was visiting with Dr. Dan Gross and Dr. Laurie Ecoff, current Vice President of the Center of Nursing Excellence at Sharp HealthCare and Clinical Associate Professor at USD who will be teaching our Leadership class this semester. We met over a delicious lunch. I will never forget the time they took out of their busy schedules to meet with both Karina Ochoa and me. Hearing Dan Gross’s personal story as a nurse was tremendously inspiring. Dr. Dan Gross gave me the courage and confidence necessary to get me through nursing school.  I hope to instill the same inspiration to students when applying for scholarships!

Karina Ochoa-Class of 2018

Karina Ochoa, MEPN Class of 2018

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Getting comfortable in the uncomfortable

This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student, Saya Nodera


Where to even begin with this extraordinary place…

Let me start by telling you a little bit about St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center (SMSC), and all of the wonderful things they do for adults with developmental disabilities. SMSC is a facility dedicated to empowering these remarkable individuals to find and reach their full potential. They are able to do this by providing various programs that cater directly to their developmental needs. The participants at St. Madeleines Sophie’s Center are called “consumers”, they are not patients, nor students, as they treat this facility as if it was their place of work. There are three separate groups that are divided into their levels of independence. Those in Activity Center (AC) are able to complete basic self-care needs, interact with others, and follow instructions. In the Adult Development Center (ADC), consumers are supported and instructed in the living skills area that best suit their wants and needs. They require a smaller group to instructor ratio that provides some independence, while still keeping them safe! In the Behavioral Modification Center (BMOD), the goal is to increase levels of independence while decreasing their level of behaviors while they work and participate in meaningful activities. They learn to self-manage and cope with various situations and environments. Last but not least, we have the Senior Center that offers retirement-oriented programming to senior-age adults with developmental disabilities. Besides the seniors, the goal is for the consumers to advance to the Activity Center, and eventually become integrated into our surrounding communities through their employment training programs.  SMSC allows this population to find a sense of belonging, make friends, learn new skills, and find their purpose and meaning in life. There are over 400 adults with developmental disabilities that attend SMSC on a daily basis.

Friday’s have quickly become our favorite day, as we all feel very lucky to be placed here with this particular population. Personally, I have always had a special place in my heart for those with developmental disabilities; however, for fear of saying the wrong thing, I was at times more hesitant to interact with someone with a disability. At SMSC, you don’t really have the time to even think about it, because the consumers come right up to you, shake your hand, and begin to tell you about all of their favorite things or about their significant others (there are some cute couples on campus!). They are so warm, friendly, and filled with so much life! I’ve become so envious of the consumers as they are so present in the moment and enjoy every single bit of it. Mornings at SMSC are very eventful as all of the consumers pull up in their busses, and there is a sudden frenzy of excitement to start their day at work again!

Since we are at SMSC every Friday one of the consumers can be heard letting everyone know “IT’S FRIDAY, IT’S PIZZA DAY!!! YABA DABBA DOOOO!!” (it’s my favorite!).

This semester is the first-time students are actually paired up with an individual consumer within the different departments.  Jessica Wang and I are in the Activity Center department, RJ Hernandez is in the Behavioral Modification Department, Katie Haines and Vincent Ng are in the Adult Development Center, and Kasia Peterson is in the Senior Center! Our goal was to get to know our individual “buddies” and become more immersed into their world and daily activities. My buddy has cerebral palsy and also suffers from epileptic seizures from time to time. He is also on the spectrum which requires him to have consistency and routine in his daily schedule. Although he is 39 years old, he is at the developmental age of 5. On Fridays, we garden and then head over to the computer lab to work on our typing skills, he takes his jobs very seriously. He is also very shy and does not like to interact with myself or others as much. My extrovert self struggles in situations like these, because I would ideally like to have been best friends by now. It’s been a challenging yet great learning experience for me, as I have practiced patience and adapting to his behaviors. We have all been completely immersed in this remarkably talented population and see first-hand the amazing things they are all capable of doing. SMSC provides a safe place for consumers to explore their talents, learn new skills, and be part of the community. Our perception and views have transformed, and as Professor Krich shared with us, “we now see the person, not the disability”.

Our experiences here directly impact the type of nurses we all strive to become. We will be both students and future nurses who will always take into consideration all aspects of our patients, and always treat the whole person. I believe our greatest lesson has been to get comfortable in the uncomfortable, as we have broken down barriers and stigmas that once existed between the consumers and ourselves. We are now working together to reach our full potential!

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Professor Molly McAmis with clinical group

(Katie Haines, Kasia Peterson, Rhoedel “RJ” Hernandez, Vincent Ng, Jessica Wang, and Saya Nodera)


Posted in Class of 2019, community involvement, Guest Writer, Hahn School of Nursing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Bagels and Blood Pressures


It hasn’t even been two weeks since the MEPN Class of 2020 arrived on campus to begin Health Assessment Bootcamp. The new students  have been taught how to obtain vital signs and will be able to perform a complete physical examination by the end of next week. Second year MEPNs met the new group of students on the BINR Plaza for a bagel breakfast and volunteered to have their blood pressures checked by the new students.

The Class of 2020 will be welcomed into the nursing profession at The White Coat Ceremony on Friday, August 24th.




Posted in Class of 2019, Class of 2020, Hahn School of Nursing, Mentor Program, White Coat Ceremony | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Lessons Learned from Diabetes camp

This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student,Caleb Kuo

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Caleb Kuo drawing up insulin for administration

I had the opportunity to participate as a nursing volunteer at Camp Wana Kura, which is a summer camp dedicated to helping children with type 1 diabetes learn about diabetes management and provide them a safe space to be a kid. I was assigned to work with a group of 9-10 year old campers and was amazed to find how self-sufficient they were. We started the day by checking in with the parents and taking report of their child’s blood glucose level. I was a little nervous working with the children because they knew so much about their own management. It was only after I started joking around with them that they became comfortable with me and let me help with checking blood glucose levels and administering insulin. There was a big emphasis on carb counting and it was a little tricky determining how much insulin to give because the children would say that they were going to eat a certain number of carbs and then decide not to. Dr. Marsh guided me through calculating each individual’s insulin according to their own scale and it surprised me how different everyone’s insulin regimen was. She also led a few education games and we watched the campers put together a skit about safe administration of glucagon.

In reflecting on the day, I realized that despite all the adversity that children with type 1 diabetes face I could see their strength as they refused to let the diabetes prevent them from doing what they loved. I could imagine how difficult it would be for a child with type 1 to go to a friend’s house for a party and have to be careful about what they ate. Eating lunches at school can also present difficulty because you often cannot share food unless you know how many carbs it has. I learned that there are so many variables that influence your blood sugar level including activity level and weather. I can understand why parents would worry because their children are forced to grow up and learn to manage their disease process. However, this experience taught me that outside of all the stressors and challenges there can be so much joy in living in the moment and enjoying our youth. Thank you to all the kids and staff at Camp Wana Kura for showing me what it is like to live a life that is not defined by diabetes. May we never forget our child-like excitement and live not in fear of what could happen in the future but appreciate the blessings we have now.

on the left-Thalia Quezada administering insulin via insulin pen, to a camper. Group photo of MEPNs at camp


Monica Colavita administering an injection to a camper

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Build A Miracle Mexico Spring Break Trip

This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student, Melissa Dempsey.

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World’s Collide

During our spring break this past March, I had the opportunity of visiting the town La Morita with a few other MEPN students and Dr. Hutchins. During this particular trip, the San Eugenio clinic was closed. Instead of our usual activities (health fairs, clinic visits, and first aid courses), we volunteered with a non-profit called Build A Miracle, and learned about all of the great work they do in the community.

Katie North, a second year MEPN student, has a pretty special connection with the town of La Morita. When she started at USD, the MEPN mentorship team paired her with second year Brittani Deriemer. Brittani happened to be one of the team leaders of the Mexico trips at the time. As Katie recalled, “we were driving to the clinic in La Morita on the first day, and it just randomly happened to be right by our community center.” This community center is a place that Katie has been visiting her entire life.

Katie’s parents started Build A Miracle in 1999, after graduating from Loyola Marymount University. In the beginning, their dream was to build one home a year. Today, the organization averages 25-30 homes per year, and is currently working on home #310. Each home is funded by donations, and families who receive homes are asked to volunteer 500 hours of service at the community center or other home building sites. This community center has become a beacon for the surrounding community. It offers after-school programs for kids, tutoring, vocational courses, and a place for members of the community to gather. As Katie detailed, “families get involved with the community center because it gives them confidence, builds a stronger community, and changes lives.”

I asked Katie to talk to me about how her work with Build A Miracle has evolved since starting nursing school at USD. “It’s been really cool for me. We’ve always focused on homes and education with Build a Miracle, nobody in my family is in the medical field. It’s been amazing to see the health initiatives brought to the community by USD,” said Katie. “We’ve been able to channel USD’s philosophies into the community center programs, we even started teaching dental hygiene, Zumba, and nutrition recently.”

During our time in La Morita over spring break, we visited multiple Build A Miracle homes. We helped lay concrete at a home site, taught classes at the community center, and most importantly, saw the massive impact that the organization has had on this small community. I think that we all left La Morita in complete awe of our classmate and her family. As Natalie Mata expressed, “to me, Katie’s parents were like little sparks that slowly started a large and strong flame that has grown stronger and brighter with time. It made me realize that everyone has the potential to make this type of a difference in the world. It also showed me how constant compassion, as well as the collective compassion of others can truly change lives.”

Katie mentioned that one of the things that recipients of new homes consistently mention to the Build A Miracle team is a newfound appreciation for rain. One of the women in the community said to Katie, “rain used to be this evil thing. It was scary, and after it rained, the kids would always get sick. I remember standing in my house and looking outside my window the first time that it rained after we moved into our new house and thinking, ‘wow, rain is beautiful.’”


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Posted in Class of 2018, community involvement, Guest Writer, Hahn School of Nursing, Health Care Advocate, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

MEPNs care for veterans at Stand Down

This post is written by MEPN students and guest Writers:  Maile Cabugao, Adilene Esquivias, Karen Kriger, Nneoma Njoku, Hannah Penney, Amarachi Uchenna

Stand Down from Peggy Peattie

What is Stand Down?

 On the weekend of June 29-July 1st, USD nursing students had the opportunity to take part in the yearly national Stand Down event catered to veterans of San Diego, hosted by the Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) . Throughout the weekend, numerous services such as housing, legal aid, medical treatment, massage therapy, and acupuncture were provided at no cost to the veterans who have served our country.  A wide array of volunteers from various locations throughout the nation were present at the event. With the veteran population being underserved, it was rewarding having the opportunity and honor to give back.

What did we do at Stand Down?

 We were given an opportunity to work in the medical tent with different medical professionals. We worked with doctors, registered nurses, dermatologists, podiatrists, laboratory scientists and pharmacists. From initial screening, patients were directed to triage.  At triage, patients were further referred to specific clinicians based on their chief complaints. Veterans received adequate care from all teams of health professionals. They were then accompanied to discharge area. Most of the patients needed vaccinations and  medications refilled. For patients who were not able to receive a specific treatment for more complex conditions, they were given referral for further treatment outside of Stand Down. Throughout the day we made rounds with the medical backpacks, to all tents in case of emergency. We also provided education for oral hygiene and foot care. All in all, we worked alongside these professionals to provide a continuum of care to our veterans. This was an honor.

How we felt/reflection:

Many of us have completed a clinical rotation at the VA Healthcare System or Navy Medical Center. It felt rewarding to be able to serve the veterans again. It is always shocking to see how many veterans there are who are homeless, despite all that they have given to protect our country. Stand Down offered us an opportunity to spend time with and give back to the men and women who have already given so much for us and our country. It was great to be able to talk with the veterans and hear their different stories. Although Stand Down offers a variety of necessary services to this population, we felt that this event can only do so much because it is only three days long. Upon reflecting with our group after the event, we realized that we need to become advocates for our veterans so that they can receive the care that they so desperately deserve all year round.

Special thanks to Dr Lyn Puhek and Professor Laura Gilbert for mentoring us during this phenomenal experience.



with DA Summer Sanders


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Volunteers needed for Save A Life event

This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student Kelsey Marckstadt

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The Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation is an organization based in San Diego that is spreading the awareness of sudden cardiac arrest in our youth. Through education and action, the parents of Eric Paredes are influencing families, educators, elected officials and the medical community to recognize the incidence of youth sudden cardiac arrest/death (SCA/D) and the importance of preventative heart screenings. They have a vison of exposing sudden cardiac arrest as an overlooked health risk affecting young people, leading to mandatory cardiac screenings and the required placement of AED’s in schools and youth centers.

Every few months there is a Save A Life event that is organized at a local high school here in San Diego where we screen teens for cardiac abnormalities. It gives nursing students great experience in working with teenagers and children ranging from the ages of twelve to eighteen years and also with young adults up to the age of twenty-five.

Nursing students are primarily assigned to the EKG room where they are in charge of placing leads and performing the 12-lead EKG. Other stations include the questionnaire table where nursing students obtain a history on each person being screened and a hands-only CPR station where volunteers teach teens and family members the importance of acting fast in a medical emergency.

University of San Diego School of Nursing has been bringing student volunteers to participate at these screenings for many years. It has easily become my favorite event to attend in the community. As the 2018-2019 student nurse recruiter from USD, I encourage everyone to participate at the next event to see for yourself how rewarding it is.

Come kick off the beginning of fall semester on August 26th at the next Save A Life screening!!

Interested in volunteering?

Please send me an e-mail at: kmarckstadt@sandiego.edu

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MEPNs host Health Fair in Tijuana

This post is written by guest writer and MEPN student Adilene Esquivas

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(Grammy winners Adilene Esquivias and Saya Nodera performing a simulated motor vehicle accident encounter.)

On Saturday June 23rd, several USD Nursing Students had the opportunity to visit our neighbors in Tijuana to host a Health Fair at the San Eugenio Clinic. With the guidance of our faculty advisor, Dr. Hutchins, students were able to address health disparities by providing health education on various nursing skills. Stations included information about allergies, wound and fracture care, heat exhaustion, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Many residents in this community were not aware on how to deliver basic first aid. Shedding light and providing them with supplies was a great way of empowering this community in need.

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(Left to Right: Karen Kriger, Elizabeth Schoen, Taylor Spera, and Dr. Hutchins educating students on fracture care.)

Participants in attendance ranged from middle school and high school students, and parents of young children. Serving this wide array of individuals gave MEPNs and NP students the opportunity to tailor their education skills in many ways. Stations not only provided written and verbal information, but also enabled participants to hone the skills they learned by practicing them. USD nursing students were also able to demonstrate their award-winning acting skills at the end of the event! Similar to a CCE, participants simulated care for two patients involved in a motor vehicle accident. Although this was a technique to have participants engaged, it was great having a chuckle after an eventful morning!

The teamwork amongst the MEPNs and NP students was evident. With language being the most common barrier in the delivery of care, we coordinated to have at least one Spanish-speaking student present in each skill station. Collaborating with each other to communicate with the San Eugenio participants was a rewarding learning experience for MEPNs.

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(Left to Right: Melissa Dempsey, Elizabeth Oliver, and Jennifer Bui teaching participants how to perform CPR.)

Prior to the event, USD Nursing students organized a “packing party”. This consisted of gathering all the donated supplies from USD MEPN students. Over one hundred dollars were raised! Funds were utilized to purchase sunscreen, bandages, gauzes, hand sanitizers, and other supplies used during first response treatment. Team leaders, Katie and Karen, were immensely grateful for all the donations received! Having them as our coordinators provided everyone with a sense of comfort as we delivered care in a different country!

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MEPN and NP students with the participants at the San Eugenio Clinic after learning first aid.

Posted in Class of 2019, community involvement, Guest Writer | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Some barely finish Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

This post is written by MEPN student, Karen Kriger

On Sunday, June 3rd, MEPN students arrived at 6:00 am to check in as a volunteer for the San Diego Rock n Roll Marathon. Several medical tents were set up throughout the course of the race to provide acute first aid for over 26,000 runners!

​The first thoughts that come to mind about a marathon for most spectators are sweat, strength, determination, and runners overcome with joy as they cross the finish line! However, as nursing students and medical volunteers, for us, the thoughts are muscle cramps, altered electrolyte status, altered cognition, hyperthermia, and injuries as runners approach the finish line.

It was a hot day, with the temperature creeping up into the high 70s, causing the core body temperature of some of the runners to reach dangerously high levels. There were a few athletes who were brought into the finish line medical tent unconscious with a core body temperature of 107 or 108 degrees. It was critical and time sensitive for the medical team to decrease their core temperature back to a normal thermic range before organ damage occurred.

MEPN volunteers at the finish line medical tent worked as part of the medical team, consisting of Physicians, Registered Nurses and EMTs, to stabilize these critical patients. MEPNs worked quickly, and under pressure, to obtain a blood pressure and core body temperature, while submerging these patients in an ice bath. I found the team oriented environment and organized chaos of volunteering at the finish line to be a small taste of life as an Emergency Medicine nurse.

Volunteering at Rock n Roll was excellent opportunity for MEPN volunteers to work alongside other medical providers from the San Diego area, and gain hands on experience with triaging and emergency care. Volunteering at community events allows students to gain new experiences and practice skills that cannot be gained in a classroom, and MEPN volunteers are already looking forward to volunteering at the next marathon!

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MEPN students (Left to right): Caleb Kuo, Megan O’Mahoney, Hannah Lim, Hannah Penney, Melissa Holliser and Natalie Mata

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MEPN Students (Left to right): Karen Kriger, Evan Gum (class of 2018), Kelsey Marckstadt, Hilary Willis, Thalia Quezada

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