Nursing educators at the University of Alabama-Birmingham have launched a new required course for seniors to learn all about population and community care, according to a news release.
Instructor Sallie Shipman, EdD, RN, along with instructor Laura Debiasi, DNP, MPH, BSBME, RN, NP-C, introduced the course, Concepts of Community and Public Health Nursing, in the fall of 2014.
“We want to show them that there is a whole other side of nursing outside of a big hospital,” Shipman said in the release. “They’ve learned how to practice individualized care; now we’re giving them the chance to apply that to population and community care.”
At the beginning of the semester, nursing students are matched with one of 30 partner agencies, depending on their intended practice specialty and the patient population that most interests them. The organizations, which are located in areas from North Birmingham to the heart of central Alabama’s Black Belt, serve groups such as the homeless, immigrants, patients with HIV, disadvantaged youths and seniors. During the semester, the students spend at least 40 hours working with their agencies, and dozens of hours developing curricula and other materials as part of a sustainable project they can leave with the organizations.
Student experience in the community
This spring, Jamie Furman and seven classmates made the 90-minute trip from Birmingham to Greensboro, Ala., each Tuesday. In the mornings, they helped adults with exercises and played dominoes in the community clubhouse, according to Furman. In the afternoons, the students visited the elementary school and helped with math tutoring while teaching the children general first aid, care for sprains or burns and hands-only CPR.
“I really liked getting to know the community,” Furman said in the release. “When I worked on the heart-lung transplant unit at UAB, I saw a lot of people who had come to UAB from rural communities. Working in Greensboro made it easier for me to relate to those patients.”
Shipman, who was a public health nurse for 18 years in and around Alabama’s Black Belt, said she hopes students get a sense of the obstacles patients face in rural areas — and the pleasures of life in the country. Students who travel to Hale County start off with a tour that fills them in on the region’s history and culture. The UAB students also learn about challenges local residents face including sparse jobs and transportation options.
Community group insight
“Wherever we go, when the students are here, they go with us,” Regina Knox, executive director of the West Central Alabama Area Health Education Center in Greensboro, said in the release. AHEC staff members travel to middle and high schools in 13 counties, teaching students about healthcare careers and offering continuing education for healthcare workers.
“Our whole purpose is to encourage students to come back to a rural community and take part in public service, and then to support them once they’re in the workforce,” Knox said in the release.
Access to the program is beneficial for youth in small communities, who might not have seen all the different careers in healthcare, according to Morgan Edwards, a UAB student who worked with Knox in the spring. Edwards, who grew up in a “very small town with one clinic and a dentist’s office,” according to the release, said the AHEC staff teach students about other healthcare jobs that are available.
Edwards, who graduated from UAB in April and now works as an RN in Carrollton, Ga., plans to go back to school after getting two years of work experience. “I want to end up with a nurse practitioner degree and work in a rural clinic close to home,” she said in the release.