Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Poverty simulations provides eye-opening experience

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More than 100,000 South Dakotans risk going hungry. And of those, they must choose between paying for food or utilities.

Avera McKennan put on a poverty simulation that provides a glimpse into the lives of some of the patients they may treat.

“So when you all entered, you were assigned a family,” said the poverty simulation coordinator.

“We are the Knowles/Kaminsky family. Our family receives $210 a month for food stamps,” said Courtney Ehlers, director of women’s and children’s services at Avera McKennan.

“What this packet will give you is a description of your family and its individual members. It’s also going to tell you your sources of income, your possessions and your bills,” said the poverty simulation coordinator.

“There’s not a lot of wiggle of room,” said Ehlers.

“The simulation is hardly that. It feels very real,” said Sister Mary Thomas.

Sister Mary is the Senior VP for mission at Avera McKennan. But today, she’s someone else.

“My name is Kate Kiminsky and she is a 57-year-old woman who had a stroke so she’s partially paralyzed on her left side,” said Sister Mary.

Sister Mary and her mock family must make ends meet by finding and using the correct resources available to them – something that is easier said than done.

“I know that many people come for health care services and sometimes they don’t make their appointments and so it’s like what’s going on? How come they can’t keep their appointment? Well, there’s a lot going on. And they’re probably trying to manage as best they can with the few resources they have,” said Sister Mary.

“It’s eye-opening. It’s tough to make it,” said Zachary Ferdinand, a nursing student at USF and participant in the poverty simulation.

Thomas Jennings is a marketing and recruiting specialist for USF’s nursing department. Although just a simulation, he thinks this experience is something the participants will carry with them throughout their lives.

“I think it’s just about how you interact with the patient that’s such a vital part of being a nurse. And just being able to have these little experiences will just allow them to function more effectively as nurses I believe,” said Jennings.

Nationally, 37% of all homeless have a disability. Just over 24% of South Dakotans with disabilities live below the poverty line.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.