The Health Sciences Service Learning and Advocacy Group has selected this year’s Health Sciences Common Book: Catching Homelessness by UW Nursing faculty Josephine Ensign
Students, staff, and faculty in the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, and Social Work are asked to read this book over the summer and come prepared to participate in the 2016–2017 Health Sciences Common Book Series. The Common Book Series will include workshops and lectures that invite Health Sciences community members to dialogue about the book and the issues it raises and to build skills to address the challenges and opportunities that exist when managing the health of individuals and populations. The Common Book Series provides a shared framework for inter-professional dialogue with the goal of creating collaborative health professionals. Catching Homelessness will spark thoughtful discussion across the departments and programs of the UW Health Sciences, bringing to light a range of issues touching on homelessness and the healthcare system.
With the City of Seattle and many other cities across the U.S. declaring a state of emergency on homelessness, the choice for the 2016–2017 Health Sciences Common Book Series could not come at a more appropriate time. In a memoir that takes a piercing look at the homelessness industry, nursing, and our country’s health care safety net, Ensign’s book details her experiences as a young, white, Southern, Christian wife, mother, and nurse running a new medical clinic for the homeless in the heart of the South. Through her work and intense relationships with patients and co-workers, her worldview was shattered, and after losing her job, family, and house, she became homeless herself. She reconstructed her life with altered views on homelessness―and on the health care system. In Catching Homelessness, Ensign reflects on how this work has changed her and how her work has changed through the experience of being homeless. Through this educational series and associated advocacy and service learning opportunities, students will explore personal relationships to the concept of home, reflect upon what professionalism and ethics mean in systems that aren’t equipped to adequately serve all patients, and develop practical tools for serving and supporting patient populations that have a tenuous relationship to home.