The windshield survey

Image: ssuaphoto | Veer
It took me an hour and a half to drive to my first official day of public health nursing. In the pouring rain.  Not exactly the type of morning I like starting off a clinical on, especially a clinical I’m already anxious about. But after bumper to bumper, stop and go’s on the parking lot of the 405 freeway, I finally found my way to the not-so-nice part of LA where the public health clinic stood – another gray building against a very cloudy sky.
I had to text my mom right away to let her know that I got there safely. And yes, I say that proudly because after an hour and a half, I was pretty relieved to have made it there alive myself. And, like I said, we’re not exactly cruising along the streets of Beverly Hills here. But I digress. Anyway, so I texted my mom, found my friends, and eventually we made it inside where we were paired up with public health nurses and told that we would be going to complete strangers homes (strangers with TB and syphilis none-the-less) to give them information about how to take care of themselves. Lovely. And like the first day of my psych clinical when we got a lesson in self defense, I got that uneasy feeling when they gave us the “don’t leave anything in your car – people will break in for a dime!” lesson. Maybe I’m being a little sensitive here, or sheltered, but really, this is not the area I want to be driving up to people’s houses in.

After a small orientation, we had to find our nurse’s census tract on the map (oh, by the way, the “Thomas Guide” is a recommended textbook for this class). We were then told to drive around that census tract and do what’s called a “windshield survey.” I, of course, texted this to my mom who wrote back and said, “What’s that? Do you go around and count the broken windshields?”  She later explained that she thought maybe there had been a study about the relationship between the maintenance of cars in a population to the maintenance of that population’s health. A good guess, but missing the mark a bit. We had to drive around and assess the community. What do you see? What kinds of services are available, who do you see walking around, what kind of shops are there?  Well, let me tell you. There are a lot of bars on the windows, no major grocery stores, middle aged men loitering in front of liquor stores and hair salons in every other shop. Oh, and the Burger King has bullet proof walls so you can place your order for a BK value meal with the same protection as depositing a million dollar check. Yeah. That was our windshield survey. I get the point of the assignment, obviously, we’ve got our jobs cut out for us, and yes, we get to serve the underserved population. But really, I am not embarrassed to be the first to say that I am NOT in any way ready to walk into these houses, with or without a nurse, no-way, no-how, nuh-uh!

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