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Montana Tech poverty simulation aims to give nursing students perspective

Posted at 8:39 AM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 12:00:07-05

BUTTE — A lot of people living at the low income or poverty level usually don’t see a doctor unless they go to the emergency room.

That’s why Montana Tech wants its next generation of nurses to understand the challenges of those living at that low-income level.

“I’ll give you $125 for all four,” said the pawnbroker.

“I need $200 at least, I’ve got to pay the mortgage, I only need $200,” she replied.

This is actually a Montana Tech nursing student playing the part of a single mother negotiating with a pawnbroker in a poverty simulation to show just how challenging life can be for the underprivileged.

“How do they live on a limited budget? How do they account for childcare over times like spring break when school is closed?” asked Montana Tech Assistant Professor Megan Rediske.

The students played various roles such as a single mother or unemployed father.

“So, I am homeless and I have a child that I need to figure out how to provide for,” said nursing student Kelsey Kolman.

The students had to conduct business at several agencies while trying to live within a limited budget. The student at the pawn shop learned how hard it can be.

“She robbed me blind, she had no sympathy at all. She just took my grandmother’s wedding ring and gave me $100,” said nursing student Cameron Williams.

The purpose of the simulation is to generate empathy for those living in poverty.

“The big thing is that it’s not a personal failure. That there are structural barriers to receiving services,” said Rediske.

"We’ll encounter these types of situations, so I think being in their shoes and knowing what they’re going through will kind of help us be better nursing," added student Jillian LaValley.

The nursing students are negotiating such things as supermarkets, social services, even a pawn shop as part of Montana Tech's poverty simulation. It looks like chaos, but these are obstacles people living in poverty have to negotiate on a daily basis.

“There are a lot of low-income people in Butte who are just barely making it who suffer from food insecurity and eviction, they’re about to turn off the power in the summer, things like that, so it’s broadening the definition of what poverty looks like, so it’s not just the people at the rescue mission,” said Rediske.