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RN-led, shelter-based UCLA School of Nursing Health Center helps homeless population deal with myriad issues

Monday May 5, 2014
Abi Striblea, RN, clinical director for the UCLA School of Nursing Health Center at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, consults with a client in one of the health center exam room.
Abi Striblea, RN, clinical director for the UCLA School of Nursing Health Center at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, consults with a client in one of the health center exam room.
(Photos courtesy of Marissa Roth)
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Abi Striblea, RN, clinical director for the UCLA School of Nursing Health Center, listens to a client at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. The health center is located at the mission.
Abi Striblea, RN, MSN, FNP-BC, has seen firsthand the difference basic healthcare can make in the lives of homeless people.

Striblea, clinical director for the UCLA School of Nursing Health Center at the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, works with the homeless populations of Skid Row.

The nurse-managed clinic, which opened in 1983, provides everything from well-child exams to routine health screenings for men and women, Striblea said. One of the few shelter-based healthcare facilities in Los Angeles that provides healthcare for women and children, the clinic had 9,500 homeless patient visits in 2013, according
to Striblea.

“The thing I like the most is the patient interaction,” said Striblea, who began working at the clinic in 2008. “It fascinates me to be able to learn about people’s backgrounds and why they are homeless and then to be able to provide for their medical needs and also direct them toward services that can help them.”

Recently Striblea helped care for a mother who had been evicted along with her four children, ranging from infancy to age 7. All of the children had reactive airway disease and needed inhalers. One of them had an upper respiratory infection requiring medication. “We were able to evaluate them and give them medication,” Striblea said. “They were so grateful.”

But unlike a clinic inside a major drugstore chain, the health center at the Union Rescue mission faces limited resources, Striblea said. Referring patients to social workers or specialists or giving them prescriptions is more difficult than in a traditional healthcare setting.

In addition to providing much needed medical care for patients who fall 200% below the federal poverty line, Union Rescue Mission offers an excellent learning opportunity for nursing students, Striblea said. About 15 nurse practitioner students do clinical rotations at the health center each year, with six NP students doing outreach at the facility annually, she said. The clinic also has 10 nursing students for the night nurse program since it started in 2011. Because of a focus on interdisciplinary education at the clinic, 20 medical students also work with NP students each year.


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