Ascension Seton Shoal Creek Nurse Experiences Life Among Austin’s Homeless Population

Nancy Miller, BSN, RN, living among the homeless in April 2017

Nancy Miller, BSN, RN works on the Psychiatric Adult Unit at Ascension Seton Shoal Creek Hospital. Many of the patients treated on this specialized unit are homeless and over the years Nancy has become a passionate advocate for Austin’s homeless population. She is a volunteer with First Community Village, a community outreach program supported by the nonprofit organization, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, which offers housing for the homeless in a supportive, cooperative setting.

Nancy is the consummate “doer” and has left her mark at Ascension Seton Shoal Creek in many ways. In addition to referring many of her patients to the First Community Village, she has taken other steps to support the homeless, such as creating a clothing closet in 2009 for patients who have often nothing to wear when they are discharged.

In 2017, Nancy approached her nursing manager to request a change in her schedule that would allow her to further deepen her understanding of Austin’s homeless population (and her patients). Mobile Loaves & Fishes was offering members of the public a unique educational opportunity to live on the streets among the homeless for three-days. Nancy yearned for this experience so she could better connect and perhaps better understand this special patient population and worked with her supervisor to accommodate her schedule.

Nancy Miller and her husband, Ed

Here’s an excerpt of what Nancy had to say about her experience:

I spent three nights and three days living on the streets of Austin, TX without any formal sources of finances, food, or shelter. I was trained by the Mobile Loaves and Fishes team on the daily life of living chronically homeless. We slept on the streets, ate from various resources including soup kitchens, interviewed dozens of homeless individuals, talked with Austin Police Department, spent a day at the downtown Austin Resources for the Chronically Homeless facility….This experience improved by nursing skills by heightening my understanding of the challenges that chronically homeless individuals face in maintaining their mental health (e.g., sleep, nutrition, safety, medication, transportation to medical appointments). This experience improved my care of these individuals with respect to treatment and discharge planning.” 

~Nancy Miller, BSN, RN, MAHS