This paper describes an unconventional health education project implemented by nurse practitioners in a nurse-managed clinic serving persons who are homeless. The nurse practitioners perceived that there were a number of potential barriers to providing health education to the homeless patients. These barriers included the fact that this patient population is part of a marginalized subculture affected by a variety of overwhelming social problems. An additional barrier was that the nurses often differed from their homeless patients in terms of race, gender, socioeconomic status, formal education, culture, and life experience. The nurse practitioners designed the Peer Health Education Project (PHEP) to try to overcome some of these barriers. The purpose of the PHEP was to increase the health education knowledge and empowerment of persons who had experienced homelessness so that they could serve as peer health educators with others who were living on the streets. The project model was based on the philosophy of Paulo Freire (1973). The peer health educators served as both leaders and participants in each education session. The educators set the agenda and the nurses acted as facilitators. The project was successful in preparing peer educators. Other indicators of the success of the project included increased empowerment, self-esteem, dignity, hope, self-confidence, and community participation of the peer educators. "I realize that I can make a difference . . . that I can help someone else . . . that I can turn my life around . . . and offer someone hope . . . that my life of homelessness and drug addiction can be put to good use . . . . " - A peer health educator.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health