Simulated Poverty, Real Learning

Mar. 6, 2011

UNLV nursing students and volunteers from Help of Southern Nevada, a local homeless shelter, conducted a poverty simulation exercise to help students better understand the realities of poverty. With greater awareness, healthcare practitioners and service agencies can more effectively address the poverty issues in our community.

Organized by nursing professor Nancy Menzel, the program helps students understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day to day. Using a simulation kit, participants role-play the lives of low-income families.


They are given the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute “weeks,” where they interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers, and others. According to U.S. Census data from 2009, more than 300,000 Nevadans - or 12 percent - live below the poverty level.