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Former UCLA nurse practitioner student shares her volunteer experiences serving homeless clients

Wednesday April 30, 2014
Paula Sandoval, RN
Paula Sandoval, RN
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Paula Sandoval, RN, BSN, clinical nurse III in the radiation/oncology department at UCLA Medical Center, shares her experience at the Union Rescue Mission health center.

Q. Tell me about yourself? What made you want to become a nurse?

A. I was born in Colombia. My mom brought me [to the Los Angeles area] when I was 12. I knew I wanted to help people because I grew up in a rural area and saw a lot of people who were ill and did not have access to care. Recently, I got back from doing a medical mission in India where I worked with an underserved population of very poor, malnourished children, men and women. My goal is to take all these experiences from my own country and India and be able to improve processes that are in place [in the U.S.] or start programs that are lacking.

Q. What lessons did you take with you from your 10 weeks at the clinic in spring 2013?

A. The most eye opening I think for me was to be able to see all the resources that the underserved population has, especially for that community. I was very glad to see how much collaboration there is between all kinds of professions, from nurse practitioners and doctors to lawyers and social workers to chaplains, dentists and people volunteering in the kitchen. The other thing was how much people depend on the Union Rescue Mission, from healthcare to shelter to basic needs. It provides as much as possible with the resources it has. ďIt was good to see thereís hope in the midst of the complex daily struggles of the homeless population.

Q. What did the experience teach you about the homeless population?

A. It was very humbling to see how thankful people were just for the overall care for themselves and their children. You donít just choose to be homeless. Thereís a reason and a story that gets a lot of these people where they are. I am called to provide care for them and their families, using all the resources available, so they can be as healthy as possible and be able to concentrate on other aspects of their lives such as finishing their schooling or finding a job.


Geneva Slupski is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorWest@nurse.com.