You don’t have to wear a cape or have special powers to be considered a superhero. Nurses are real-life heroes who make sacrifices for the welfare of others every day. Their hard work in hospitals and in their communities illustrates their dedication and passion towards assisting those who are less fortunate.
The St. Luke’s Hospital Commemorative School of Nursing at Moravian College develops partnerships with local health care and social organizations, such as the Bethlehem Health Bureau, Bethlehem and Easton Area School Districts, St. Luke’s University Hospital and Health Network, Victory House, Moravian Village, Parish Nurse and Community Outreach Program at Sacred Heart Hospital, and the Parent Advocacy in the Home program (P.A.T.H.). These partnerships educate current nursing students about vulnerable populations, and prepare them for their future career in the field.
“We are always on the lookout for new partnerships,” says Beth Gotwals, assistant professor of the nursing department. Gotwals is responsible for coordinating the health nursing courses, and for working with nursing faculty and school nurses to create the partnerships. The students choose a partnership and then spend the first half of the semester gaining first-hand experience.
“After students spend valuable time with their clients, they develop different ideas on how to improve hygiene among vulnerable populations, such as homeless veterans, and young, and impoverished moms. The students educate their clients as well,” says Gotwals. The nursing student partnerships target disadvantaged areas in the local communities.
The program continues to improve with each passing year. “Three years ago, we partnered with the Bethlehem Area School District to develop a health hygiene program for all fourth graders, which runs every spring. Every fall term, we develop a program to help reduce childhood obesity,” says Janet Sipple, professor of the nursing department. The obesity prevention project began in 2005 to educate William Penn elementary students about the importance of nutrition and exercise. “The programs are designed to promote student, family, and neighborhood daily physical activity,” says Sipple.
Not only are nursing students working to reduce childhood obesity, but they also created a suicide prevention instructional program at Freedom and Easton Area high schools. “Suicide rates increased in Northampton County among adolescents over the past few years, so the Bethlehem Health Bureau asked Moravian nursing students to participate in the interventional program. Each year, a new group of students take over, allowing the program to develop further,” says Sipple.
Nursing student, Katie Rubino ’13 worked on the P.A.T.H program the first half of the semester. P.A.T.H. focuses on young and impoverished mothers and their infants. “There were six of us, and we each had a partner. The nurse in charge gave us moms who needed to be supervised. We would text them the day before our visit asking when a good time would be to meet. While there, we would check on the mom, educate her, help her take care of the baby, and evaluate the home situation,” says Rubino.
Katie and her partner, Amanda Hanuszak ’13 went above and beyond to help out their moms. “We would go to thrift shops to get jackets and blankets for the babies. It wasn’t required, but we wanted to help them any way we could,” says Rubino. At the end of the experience, the two presented the project to their colleagues. “Overall, I really enjoyed the P.A.T.H. program. It was a great experience,” says Rubino. Once Rubino and Hanuszak completed the partnership, they spent the second half of the semester working in the mental health ward at St. Luke’s Hospital.
Amanda Morales ’13, another nursing student, partnered up with the parish nurses at the New Bethany Church in Allentown. This partnership provides services for vulnerable populations, those who are uninsured or underinsured, with physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual problems. “As part of my experience, I took blood pressures, gave flu shots, and helped tremendously with translating, as I am fluent in Spanish, and a majority of the people who came in only spoke Spanish,” says Morales. The parish nurses also team up with other partnerships to provide women with free mammograms and pap smears, and enable people to afford medications at a low price.
“As a student, I had the opportunity to run several sessions and covered topics such as child safety, preterm labor, fatigue, exercise, children discipline methods, healthy diet during pregnancy, and preeclampsia,” says Morales. Once the partnership was completed, Morales and her partner gave a presentation covering what they did for their project.
“This partnership was truly rewarding and insightful. I was able to learn so much about this particular vulnerable population and about the many unknown resources that exist to help these people. The parish nurses are truly amazing and so passionate about their work. I was extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work so closely with them,” says Morales.
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