Ohio University

Keynote speaker for CHSP's 'Serving the Underserved' nursing conference shares a message about the 'common language of health'

Keynote speaker for CHSP's 'Serving the Underserved' nursing conference shares a message about the 'common language of health'
Dr. Ruth Carrico served as the keynote speaker for the 2019 "Serving the Underserved" Evidence Based Practice and Research Conference.

Dr. Ruth Carrico, PhD, DNP, APRN, associate professor and family nurse practitioner at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine, served as the keynote speaker for this year’s “Serving the Underserved” Evidence Based Practice and Research Conference presented by Ohio University’s School of Nursing during National Nurses Week.

Carrico’s address to the more than 100 nursing professionals in attendance, was entitled “Caring for Immigrant and Refugee Patients.”

“It’s important to remember that the public voted nurses the most trusted profession and it is our responsibility, our promise to our patients, that we retain that trust,” Carrico said.

Such trust extends to a population of refugees who have come to learn not to trust easily, making nursing all the more important in care of the population.

Refugees across the world who left their home countries due to persecution currently number more than 40 million. These individuals, comprised of different languages, cultures and backgrounds, pose a communications challenge for nurses asked to be responsible for their healthcare when they enter the United States.

“They are expected within eight months to get a job, learn the language and launch,” Carrico said. “Imagine if you left everything you knew behind and went to another country where you had to learn a new language and culture and become self-supporting in eight months. It makes you respect the bravery and resilience of the refugee population.”

Carrico acknowledged the reality that the refugee population has become highly politicized; however, she remained steadfast in the commitment nurses have to provide this underserved group with healthcare.

She reported that some refugees have lived their entire lives in camps and nurses are required to “hit the reset button” on basic communication skills; sometimes even basic concepts that most individuals take for granted, such as escalators or door locks, can be new to this population. In terms of providing healthcare, some of the population have experienced or witnessed events of torture, making the application of vaccines via a needle a sensitive and difficult encounter.

As Carrico spoke, many in the audience nodded in agreement. Others expressed surprise and disbelief of some of the conditions that both nurses and refugees work through in the field.

Health screens identified obesity, dental issues, the presence of parasites and latent tuberculosis as top health conditions experienced by refugees. In pediatric screens, dental, anemia and parasites topped the list. Sixteen percent of those screened exhibited positive results for mental illness including extreme stress and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Carrico stressed that creating an understanding between nurse and patient is vital.

“It doesn’t just mean letting them talk. Understanding means I listen and I actively listen and I try to determine how do I make my program fluid so it can respond and react to different needs,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if they believe like I do or if I believe like they do. Our common language is one of health.”

The agenda for the conference, hosted by the College of Health Sciences and Professions, was diverse and in-depth. In included presentations and discussions on therapeutic approaches to veteran healthcare, poster viewings and evaluations, mental health screenings among military, cyberbullying, burnout and resilience among advanced practice nursing students, the opioid crisis, screening for domestic violence, breastfeeding support, serving patients in poverty and more.

Save the date for the 3rd Annual Ohio University School of Nursing Evidence-Based Practice and Research Conference on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.