Islander Nursing Students Participate in 2021 Innovative Readiness Training Caring for Rural and Underserved Communities

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CONHS) participated in a weeklong Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) led by the U.S. Department of Defense. The training, which ran June 14-24, allowed Islander nursing students and faculty to assist in providing resources for medical, dental, and optical care to rural and underserved communities.

“It’s essential that students understand the complex issues that influence the health of their patients,” Leigh Shaver, CONHS Assistant Clinical Professor said. “Working in the colonias opens their eyes to the possibility that patients they see in the hospital could be from and returning to a rural home with limited services. That understanding goes into planning effective interventions for those patients.”

According to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, a "colonia,” is a geographic area within 150 miles of the Texas-Mexico border that has a majority population composed of individuals and families of low and very low income. Many residents lack safe, sanitary, and sound housing, as well as basic services, such as potable water, adequate sewage systems, drainage, utilities, and paved roads. 

Islander nursing and health science students assisted U.S. Army reservists at five locations throughout Nueces County, including colonias in Robstown, Banquete, Petronila, and Bishop. Islander nursing student Elizabeth Elizondo ’21 says the training was not only an opportunity to learn but a privilege.

“Every member of the U.S. Army Reserve has served as an inspiration to me,” Elizondo said. “This partnership has provided Nursing/Health Science students with an opportunity to not only serve our community and work alongside the U.S. Army Reserve – but has also prepared us with new knowledge and insight on how healthcare services can be limited in these areas.”

Dr. Elizabeth Loika, CONHS Associate Professor and Family Nurse Practitioner Program Coordinator, also participated in the training alongside her students, saying the experience is beyond pivotal to the college’s pedagogy.

“The experience is crucial to learning basic healthcare nursing skills,” Loika said. “I see our students volunteering to jump in and offer their support eagerly. The students learn not only learn those skills they need to know to function in clinical practice, but pharmaceutical components, including the levels of circumstances attributed to the use of medications for their healthcare population as well.”

More than 100 students volunteered throughout the five locations, marking the third time the Island University has participated in the training. The CONHS previously participated in the training back in 2018 and 2017.

“I am proud of each and every one of our students,” said Loika. “I’ve heard from the Army, ‘We couldn’t do this without them, Dr. Loika.’ The efforts of our students and faculty demonstrated, once again, our dedicated commitment to support our community with flawless results.”