We not only provided physical healthcare, but also mental health support, health education and advocacy: Sandra’s Story 

By Youdon Tenzin

Sandra Tavares, a graduate at Humber College’s accelerated nursing program, was one of the first students who participated in the Health for All Partnership (HAP) between the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto (MNLCT) and Humber College – a nursing student-led, faculty supervised clinic stationed at MNLCT’s Finch office.  


“The service was first presented to the fourth-year nursing class by a couple of professors who were looking for students to apply to participate for our final semester consolidation practicum,” says Sandra.  

Sandra immediately approached the professors about her interest in this opportunity and excitingly applied. She was assigned the lead nursing student position, a full-time placement, contrary to the other three part time student positions. She was part of the first cohort, starting her placement in September 2023 to December 2023. Her cohort was mentored by Sue Ferri, an experienced nurse and Humber clinical teacher.  

Her days at the HAP clinic varied according to client needs. She usually answered inquiries from clients over the phone, email or in-person, providing a holistic approach to care.  They did this in various ways: health assessments, wound care, one-on-one health education, management of chronic diseases and more.  

We not only provided physical healthcare, but also mental health support, health education and advocacy.”

The HAP clinic team also referred clients to supportive services, both within the MNLCT and external resources. They navigated the healthcare system for their clients, connecting newcomers, who often didn’t possess health insurance, to free or affordable specialized care. For example, if a client needed prenatal care or a midwife, they referred them to those services, something that happened quite frequently. 

Beyond just healthcare, Sandra and her colleagues held different workshops such as navigating the healthcare system in Canada and preparing for Canadian winters for new clients. They also connected with other community organizations such as food banks and Toronto Public Health for a vaccination clinic.  

Although there are different community health clinics in Toronto that accept individuals without health insurance, it often came with some restrictions. The HAP clinic, however, accepted everyone, regardless of their status. The clients knew that the clinic was a safe space which allowed them to build strong relationships with the nurses.   

I didn’t know too much about community nursing, so this experience really opened my eyes to community nursing and it has solidified the type of nursing I’d like to do in the future.”

As a student, the clinic provided her the opportunity to act in a leadership role. This position was unique, and she was encouraged to think on her feet to problem solve the cases that came in. Contrary to a traditional nursing placement where a student would work on one specific unit, at the HAP clinic, she was given bits of everything. It was a great learning opportunity.  

Sandra has always known that the newcomer community in Toronto is underserved when it came to healthcare but her time at the HAP clinic showed her the depths of this issue. It was eye-opening for her to see the struggles of finding healthcare that is accessible to newcomers. 

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“The people who work for MNLCT are not only professionals, but also have a deep sense of empathy, which is very important when dealing with newcomers.”

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