Nurse with a mission

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Jessica Sherman, MSc(A)’10, has been awarded the 2016 Alumni Award of Merit from the Ingram School of Nursing for her work at Montreal's Welcome Hall Mission. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Sherman.)

Jessica Sherman, MSc(A)’10, has been awarded the 2016 Alumni Award of Merit from the Ingram School of Nursing for her work at Montreal’s Welcome Hall Mission. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Sherman.)

By Medicine Focus

After one year as an internal medicine clinical nurse, Jessica Sherman, MSc(A)’10, changed direction.

I saw that hospital work wasn’t for me, says the recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit from the Ingram School of Nursing for the 2016 Medicine Alumni Global Awards.

Sherman found her niche, instead, in the community, working for a non-profit. In 2011, she became the first nurse—and, at the time, the only health care professional outside of the dental clinic—on staff at the Welcome Hall Mission, which has been serving Montreal’s homeless and disenfranchised since 1892.

Her task: to make it easier for clients to access the health care system. Although the approach has been two-fold, with Sherman developing services offered on-site as well as establishing external relationships, “the ultimate goal is to have services provided by government-funded clinics, not through missions who are raising money charitably.”

Under Sherman’s watch, the program has grown exponentially.

A team of nurses now offer health assessments and referrals, with one devoted primarily to men’s programming, including for addiction and social reinsertion.

In 2014, the Mission received a large grant from the Green Shield Canada Foundation, which Sherman used to enable full-time psychological services for clients—the demand for which, she says, has been incredible, with clients ranging from those struggling with homelessness or addiction to newly arrived immigrant families.

More recently, Sherman launched a volunteer network of nursing students to accompany clients to medical appointments. Their role is to reduce anxiety, confusion and stigma. “Having someone to talk to really helps take down the stress of going to an appointment. It also gives the nurse a chance to advocate on behalf of the client, so whoever helps the client can better understand why that person’s reality is different from someone who is coming from a more stable housing situation,” says Sherman, who also guest lectures at the Faculty of Medicine interprofessional course and at the Ingram School of Nursing, on homelessness. In 2014, she was awarded the Ingram School of Nursing Award for Excellence in Preceptorship/Advising.

“If I have a client who is quite vulnerable and nervous, then through their trust in me, I can bridge that gap to them trusting the system,” says Sherman, who, as a master’s student in the global health stream of the direct entry program at the Ingram School of Nursing, did a placement in a northern Algonquin community, creating a type 2 diabetes prevention program for youth.

When asked what advice she has for the current generation of students, Sherman says, “It’s really important to not only respect the pace of the client, but to ensure that as a health care professional we take the time to truly listen to what our clients have to say.”

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