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How a nursing student is helping the homeless

When the precautions for preventing the spread of COVID-19 came out, most of us were lucky to be able to stock up on food for months and stay in our homes, practising social isolation. However, there was another set of people who weren’t as privileged as we were: the homeless. These people are the most vulnerable to the disease and stay at shelters. Even when they have been tested positive, they have no means to isolate themselves. In such a situation stepped in Sarah Calnan, a certified nursing assistant and a student of Northeastern University’s accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing.


She works at the Boston Hope Help Centre which is a shelter for homeless people who have been tested positive for the virus. The patients here are either asymptomatic or show mild symptoms. The more critical cases are sent directly to the hospital. Her days here are spent in-taking and triaging the patients and helping other senior healthcare personnel. She is responsible for monitoring the various vital signs of patients like blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate, etc. Anyone’s health can deteriorate at any point, she says.


What Calnan finds the most valuable is the one-on-one time she gets with these patients. She works on a puzzle with them or plays a game on the mobile phone, making her reach back to the humanitarian nature of her job. “These moments where we’re just talking or having fun, and my patient doesn’t seem scared, those are moments that are really rewarding,” she says. Absolute protection is taken to ensure her safety. She sanitises her hands, wears two pairs of gloves, a gown, a mask, and a shield over her face. After her day’s duty is done, she goes back home, to change in her garage and put on a fresh pair of clothes, before entering inside.


N Malavika Mohan