Citizen Nurses: A Unique Perspective on Health

By Katie Clark

In our society today, people have become so medicalized that we often forget that health is not about the absence of disease, but a place of belonging.  Here at Augsburg College, our department has been focused on going back to what nursing was originally intended to be about, relationships.  We have opened two drop-in centers focused on just that.

One of these drop-in centers is focused on working with people living on the streets of Minneapolis.  We listen, we provide basic necessities, and we take the time to make sure people feel supported as well as feel as though they are part of a community.  In our current medical world, few people would say that helping someone find housing is a role of a nurse.  But to us, it is exactly that.  It is about having heart-to-heart conversations.  This center has been in existence for close to 20 years. Nurses engage with about 120 people each week.

Our other drop-in center, the Health Commons at Dar Ul-Quba, is a new innovation this year that is focused on immigrant health in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.  Our focus is similar to the other commons, but is carried out differently since many people have a place to call home.  Our efforts here have been about trying to help people not only understand our health care system, but to help people realize how they can practice health and healing in similar ways that they did in their country of origin.  Also, it is about helping people come together and create the desired change they want to see in their neighborhood.

To us, being citizen nurses means that we are working to strengthen our communities in ways that avoid the expert model. We see people as collaborators and co-creators.  Our Augsburg nursing students are able to have experiences at these drop-in centers and are changing their world view in ways that are benefiting our society.  Our hope is to continue to work in  communities locally as  well as abroad to help create a more accepting and loving world.


Katie Clark, RN, is a nursing instructor at Augsburg College and coordinator of Augsburg Central Health Commons and Health Commons at Dar Ul-Quba.



5 Comments on “Citizen Nurses: A Unique Perspective on Health”

  1. Garry Hesser says:

    Proud to be your colleague and be a part of Augsburg’s journey of “making the road by walking”.

  2. Sue says:

    Your work is awesome! So glad you are part of our nursing program!

  3. Salma Hussein says:

    I’m proud of you Katie of how you are able to come into a situation and always turn it positive. With your thoughtful ways and your great believe in seeing ppl as co-creators you’ve managed to earn the respect and trust of many! Keep up the great work.

  4. Will says:

    You’re inspiring, Katie. I am so glad I have been able to volunteer with you. I can’t wait to do more. I hope your mission continues to benefit these communities.

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