Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


Loyola students and staff participate in poverty simulation

Loyola students and staff participate in poverty simulation

Emily Seidel, dietetics intern, participates in a poverty simulation.

Workshop shows how to care for people living in desperate circumstances 

MAYWOOD, Ill.– Health sciences students, faculty and staff from Loyola University Chicago participated in a simulation February 6 to help them better understand what it is like to live in poverty. During the four-hour simulation at St. Eulalia’s Church in Maywood, some participants role-played families living in poverty while others served as representatives from social service agencies. 

“Participants came away with a better understanding of the impact poverty has on health and well-being,” said Aaron Michelfelder, MD, family medicine physician, Loyola University Health System, and associate director for the Institute for Transformative Interprofessional Education (I-TIE), Loyola University Chicago. “This workshop also taught our students, doctors, nurses, and other health-care professionals how to better care comprehensively for patients in the context and realities in which they live.” 

Loyola dietetic intern Emily Seidel participated in the simulation as a 16-year-old pregnant high school student who struggled to help provide for her family while also doing her schoolwork and caring for herself and the health of her unborn child. 

“The experience was eye-opening,” Seidel said. “It helped me as a future health-care professional understand that the Number 1 thing for people living in poverty is survival, not health care. I wouldn’t get this type of experience at another institution.” 

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing Associate Dean Linda Cassata, PhD, MSN, RN, played the role of a local police officer who saw a substantial amount of crime. 

“This simulation highlighted the realities of life in a place where there is a lot of activity and competing demands,” Dr. Cassata said. “You really get to see how these complexities can negatively affect behavior.” 

Following the simulation, Seidel and Loyola’s other dietetic interns were charged with making a healthy lunch that cost no more than $1.43 per serving while discussing inexpensive strategies for healthy eating. 

This workshop was part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration I-CARE-PATH grant (#UD7HP26040). The grants fosters interprofessional education within the University’s schools of nursing, medicine, social work, and public health to ultimately improve care for patients. 

Faculty will determine how this simulation can be used in a greater capacity within its curricula while doctors and other health-care professionals will be able to apply their findings directly to patient care. 

“Loyola has a rich history of shaping our students into competent, compassionate, and socially responsible health-care professionals,” said Fran Vlasses, PhD, RN, NEA, FAAN, department chair in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and associate director for I-TIE. “This program is in line with our mission, as it gives our faculty and students a greater understanding of the needs of the underserved, making them more compassionate and well-rounded health-care professionals.”