Leadership Profile

What's Happening at Cedar Crest College

Simulation on Campus Teaches Nursing, Social Work Students about Living in Poverty

More than 100 students in the nursing and social work departments at Cedar Crest College, and nursing students from DeSales University, gained a better appreciation of challenges facing low-income families during the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) at Cedar Crest College on Friday, March 19.

Rooms in the Hamilton Boulevard Building were transformed into food banks, utility company offices, pawn shops, and other businesses and organizations in the community. Students split up and played the roles of community members who work at these places, as well as low-income families. The families spent time budgeting their money, and then went out into the makeshift "community"- often with dolls representing small children in tow—where they tried to make the most out of their limited resources. In many cases, the desperation of the situation led to heated debate and in some instances, even criminal activity.

No matter what roles they played, it was a striking experience students are unlikely to forget.

"Nurses and social workers frequently interact with low-income families. The simulation enables students and others to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change in their local communities," said Sandra Leh, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of the undergraduate nursing program at Cedar Crest College.

Cedar Crest senior nursing student Elizabeth Detweiler agreed: "The program will help make us more empathetic toward our patients and their problems, so we can understand how to help them better. For example, there are some patients in the hospital who can't afford their medications. It’s up to us to figure out a way to make them healthy."