Gannon Nursing Students, Faculty Reach Out To Residents of Erie’s Mid-City Towers

Posted: January 7, 2014

To live in Mid-City Towers, a 132-unit Section 8, high-rise apartment building in downtown Erie, one must be 62 years of age or disabled. These two criteria also describe people who disproportionately need health care services, and that got the attention of members of the faculty at Gannon University's Villa Maria School of Nursing.

For at least a decade-no one can remember exactly how long-students and faculty members have made the two-block trip east on Ninth St. to the Towers to do blood pressure screenings, provide health education and just answer questions from the residents, many of whom are older and often infirm.

"We're not playing doctor or even nurse practitioner," says Kathleen T. Patterson, Ph.D., Director of the nursing school in Gannon's Morosky College of Health Sciences and Professions. "It's the service that we feel we want to do. I've been here for five years, and it goes through the summer, even though the students aren't here during the summer."

At one time, the high-rise apartment buildings in the city center were staffed with community health nurses who were in the towers who checked residents' medications, referred them to doctors, made sure they were getting proper nutrition and the like. Federal budget cuts in the 1990s eliminated those positions, and a Gannon alumnus who lived in the Towers reached out to his alma mater to see if nursing students could fill the breach.

They could and did.

"We'd meet [residents] in their community room, and we'd take a group of ten nursing students over with a faculty member," remembered Patricia A. Marshall, director of the undergraduate nursing program.

"For students, it's a clinical opportunity and a service-learning opportunity. The students gain so much out of it, even including feeling wanted. The residents are so welcoming to us and to the students. It's a pleasure to go over and provide this service. Some of the residents, during the summer, ask, 'When are the young ones coming back?' They missed the students coming to talk with them and share with them," Marshall said.