CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — West Texas A&M University nursing students took part in a poverty simulator on Wednesday. The Nursing Department called it an “eye-opening experience” into the lives of the patients their students will treat.

“This is such an important simulation for the students to understand more about their patients,” said Laura Reyher, a WTAMU Nursing Instructor.

The department said the simulation is designed to show the students “life on the edge” taking them into the shoes of a family living in poverty, or with very low income.

“Sometimes we just see our patients in a hospital bed, and don’t really see the rest of the story. And we know that poverty is one of the biggest game changers for people with their health care,” said Reyher.

The simulation consists of four 15-minute sessions that represent a week where the students navigate a number of scenarios such as organizing work, childcare, transportation, and deciding to pay utilities or rent or even buying food.

“It kind of just really makes it real, and helps with the learning process as well. You know, it’s easy to learn and read about it from a textbook, but it’s one thing to actually be like experiencing it yourself,” said Elena Chapa, a WT Nursing Student.

The simulation went beyond the traditional family unit, simulating grandparents taking care of grandkids, life for a single mother, and even young families out of work.

“We’re trying to prepare them to take care of not only patients in urban areas, but in the rural areas with different ethnicities and cultures and language barriers and those kinds of things,” Reyher said.

The department said all of this helps students live out the experience and help give them a deeper understanding of their patients.

“It kind of helps you realize, like, you know, regardless of your status and like where you are in your life, everyone deserves health care. Like everyone deserves kindness and everyone deserves to be you know, well taken care of, and you know, we need that from our community,” said Chapa.

WT said they have been doing the simulation for a number of years and it has been beneficial for their students.

Several community partners assisted with the simulation, said WT, including Family Support Services, Adult Protective Services, Nurse Family Partnership in the Coalition of Health Services, and Texas Panhandle Centers for Behavioral and Developmental Health.

The WT Department of Nursing also announced this week that it will host its Community Health Fair on Saturday afternoon, which is expected to include a range of community services, health screenings, vaccinations, and free supplies for qualifying attendees.