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November 13, 2017 06:05 PM

Nursing Students, Avera Staff Participate in Poverty Simulation

Dozens of people are learning what it's like to live in poverty today thanks to a special simulation on the Avera campus. The event features role-playing scenarios designed to help participants understand the harsh realities that come with being poor. 

Breonna Hartfiel is an accelerated nursing student at the University of Sioux Falls, but today she's pretending to be a 57-year-old man living on a small amount of disability pay. She has enough money to pay her mortgage but finances get real thin after that. 

"I have $50 and prescriptions are $50 but there are other priorities," Hartfiel said. 

Like food and money for transportation for other members of the family.

"We could pawn our car. But if we lose our house, we need somewhere to stay. So we want to keep a car in case we have to live in the car," Hartfiel said. 

Hartfiel and several others are trying to solve these life problems as they go from station to station during four different 15-minute scenarios. Simulation specialist Paula Lubeck set this all up. 

"Just get a glimpse of what it's like for somebody who has difficulties with poverty," Lubeck said. 

It also introduces the participants to several organizations in Sioux Falls they may not know about. Those groups could come in handy when they're helping future patients. 

"It kind of give us that heads up to opportunities that we have in the community too and how can we reach out and help. We do have a lot of different agencies, facilities out in the community that can assist. Sometimes we're not aware of them," Lubeck said. 

From avoiding drug dealers to keeping a job, Hartfiel is surprised by the challenges she's facing today. 

"I found myself standing in line waiting, like really nervous and almost in tears. Wondering if I'm going to have enough money to do this. Am I going to be able to get from place to place? That's been hard," Hartfiel said. 

Now she has a better understanding of what it's like to live in poverty. Lubeck says participants are surprised to know there are a lot of working poor in the community and that poverty has a big impact on people of all ages. 

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