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Where health care meets social justice

There’s nowhere else quite like it.

Founded in the heart of the city by the UNB faculty of nursing, the Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre is leading the way in primary health care in Canada. It’s the only teaching facility of its kind in the country. It’s the only health clinic in Canada with a Community Access Room, an accessible, low barrier space offering laundry services, a shower, a fresh cup of coffee and friendly conversation. Its many services are guided by a philosophy of harm reduction and focused on vulnerable populations — the homeless, immigrants and refugees, and those with drug addiction and mental health issues.

Long recognized as a leader by health care professionals in New Brunswick and beyond, the centre has operated since 2015 in partnership with Horizon Health, the province’s regional health authority. Its 35-person staff includes registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, social workers, therapists, a dietician and embedded researchers.

Nurses are the largest group of professionals at the clinic and nurse practitioners provide more than two-thirds of the primary care to the centre’s 4,500 clients.

Students play a key role

The Centre is the most sought-after community clinical setting for nursing students. Students develop a richer understanding of community development and social justice while working with vulnerable populations. The experiential nature of service-learning provides experiences that would be challenging to recreate in a classroom or laboratory setting.

Since opening in 2002, the centre has supported 1,000 nursing and nursing practitioner student placements.

A model of community service

Support for vulnerable populations extends beyond health care. For the past two winters, the centre and the faculty have been active participants in establishing and operating an overnight out-of-the-cold shelter for chronically homeless individuals in the downtown area. They have also worked collaboratively with other agencies to help those at the shelter find more stable and permanent housing.

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