“Good morning boys and girls. I am so excited about being here today. During the next few minutes you are going to learn about germs and why it is so important to wash your hands,” says the nursing student. This is how Jefferson Community and Technical College’s (JCTC) nursing students begin their community service learning presentation. Each semester JCTC’s nursing program’s community service learning project conducts health classes for students at the John Paul Academy elementary school (JPA) in Louisville.
Mary (Mickie) Watts is an advisor for the nursing program and is responsible for developing the project. “We were attending a workshop down in Elizabethtown, Ky. It was part of the Kentucky Patient KCTCS system and they were building a community. We thought that was so wonderful because it helps them to have a new experience, it also helps them interact with students in a different place other than a hospital, like a school. So I started filling out topics then I asked the faculty at the school if they would like to have our students there and they said yes,” explains Watts. Students at the John Paul Academy are brought over to the Community Center for a wellness check. A wellness check is one that is done at a location other than a hospital. “The community service learning experience exposes the JCTC students to situations and health issues in other ‘well’ environments. The community is able to observe our JCTC students critically thinking and acting,” says Watts.
JPA students are led from their classrooms over to the Community Center. The children are weighed, given an eye exam, a scoliosis screening and have their height recorded. The students are separated according to their age group. The JCTC students are given scripts of questions to ask the children. The faculty provides support and encouragement for the students. Watts says that JCTC nursing students are expected to carry flash cards and visual aids to help them.
Watts believes that it is important for JCTC nursing students to see what being a professional is about. “I think that it is good for the community to see what JCTC nursing students look like as they come out into the community. It is also good for the students to learn to be comfortable in speaking professionally to other populations and for them to give back to the community” says Watts. They also take away “what it means to prepare a nursing plan and to cover significant points in 30 minute presentations” Watts continues.
For the classes, JCTC students are divided into groups and given scripts as teaching guides. They write the children’s evaluations on individual cards and this information is confidential. It will not be shared with JPA or JCTC students except for the teachers. After this, the students are escorted back to their classrooms.
The JPA students will be taught about nutrition and the importance of exercise, burn prevention, smoke detectors, scald prevention, and basic fire safety. They will also be taught about poisons. The JCTC students conduct these classes. Part of the classes is in a question answer format where JCTC students ask the children questions and then the college students will answer them. “Can you tell me a way poison can get in your body? It can be something you swallow, get on your skin, breathe in, get in your eye, or you get from a sting or bite. So remember if you ever do not know what something is (The JCTC student holds up the sign ‘ALWAYS ASK FIRST’).” Watts also says, “In some ways, it could be similar to a health fair but we limit the topics.”
“This is at the end of the semester but it could be at any time. Every one of them will have a community service learning experience while attending JCTC” says Watts. “I have had some wonderful comments from the schools. A principal at Audubon Elementary called me and said that he and the faculty were very pleased.”
Watts also speaks about the importance of positive reinforcement. “Usually our students will also do things like give them treats such as a pencil or bring a small candy bar and they like that.” She also says the students at JPA could receive help if they needed it and they know that the JCTC students will be friendly.