How our nurses show up for youth at our drop-in centre

Once a week, Covenant House nurses Nicole Dan and Puneet Singh are stationed in our drop-in centre, a place where youth with multiple health concerns can visit for a warm meal, a hot shower, and a safe place to spend some time. Many of the clinic’s youth have been bouncing between health care providers or avoiding seeking care at all after having negative experiences within the healthcare system.

A core part of the care provided is building trust with youth and working within the social determinants of health, which consider things like housing and social needs as well as physical health and wellbeing. This is why they take their time with youth, Nicole says. Sometimes, she says, “it’ll be months of dropping in and saying hello for youth to open up about any health needs that are on their minds.”

Nicole remembers sitting down next to a young man and striking up a conversation. “He opened up and told me a lot about his situation, how he had been sleeping outside, how his health had been suffering, and he had experienced a loss in his life. He was going through a really rough time.”

That conversation was the beginning of this young man’s journey toward better health and well-being. By advocating on his behalf, Nicole was able to reconnect him with a psychiatrist in the community and create a safety plan alongside drop-in Centre staff. He is now doing much better, Nicole says, and he still comes back to use the drop-in and say hi.

“That connection, seeing that he needed someone to talk to, it helped him get to a place now where he could get some stability and have ongoing care.”

Nicole supports the psychiatry clinic in the drop-in on Wednesday but also provides basic health care like dressing wounds or providing foot care – two common health care needs she sees among youth who use the space.

These days, the drop-in nursing shifts are much busier than they typically are in the health clinic. The number of youth visiting in an average 3-hour period is currently double the norm. Last year, the drop-in centre saw a 60% increase in youth coming to use the space and the health clinic saw a 40% rise in visitors.

Despite the challenges, Nicole says she is “so proud to be a Covenant House nurse. I think the biggest thing is meeting people where they’re at,” she says. I think we do see a lot of complex cases, but no matter how complex, we will see you and we will try to help.”