Background/Significance: Service-learning teaches the value of leadership skills, promotes students’ personal growth, academic achievement, and opportunity for strengthening interpersonal skills, self-efficacy, and social responsibility. Academic-community partnerships provide opportunities for students to apply newly learned skills in real-world settings. These opportunities meet a community’s need and facilitate greater understanding of the nursing profession and meaning of being a professional.
Theoretical/Conceptual Framework: This case study analysis used the six phase framework of the Community-Based Collaborative Action Research (CBCAR) to guide a community health needs assessment of a rural community within a service-learning project while students applied public health nursing core competencies. The six phases of the CBCAR framework are: 1) Partnership: Collaboration; 2) Dialogue: Research question and direction determined; 3) Pattern recognition: Data collection and analysis; 4) Dialogue on meaning of pattern: Representation of research findings; 5) Insight into action: Community dialogue about meaning of research findings-Action planning; 6) Reflecting on evolving pattern: Evaluating actions and considering new questions.
Methods: The CBCAR framework linked service learning and community health needs assessment with public health nursing core competencies. Fifteen nursing students partnered with collaborative members. Student observational field notes and narrative reflections were analyzed qualitatively for fidelity to the CBCAR framework and to evaluate student public health knowledge. Community data and student stories were extracted from this comprehensive real-world, service-learning experience of students to provide meaningful data.
Results: Nursing students successfully utilized the CBCAR framework in collaboration with the critical access hospital and community members to design and conduct the community health needs assessment. Service learning themes were real-world solutions, professional development, community collaboration, and making a difference. Students developed skills in six of the eight domains of the Quad Council's core competencies for public health nurses.
Conclusions: Community-Based Collaborative Action Research facilitates collaborative partnerships and relationships throughout the service learning process. Students benefited by applying what they have learned from their education to a real community who lacks resources. The CBCAR framework provided a safe environment where open, non-judgmental dialogue encouraged and strengthened community voices which had not always been heard by health care professionals. CBCAR created space where meaningful work by community members, nursing students and nurse researchers could collaborate to enhance the health and wellness of the rural community. CBCAR provided gratifying work for nursing students and nurse researchers which benefited community growth through dialogue, and promoted meaningful long-term relationships with those involved in the process. Outcomes for the students, university, and community suggest continued use of the CBCAR framework with service-learning projects. When educators provide service-learning opportunities, students learn to recognize barriers and social determinants of health within the community, prioritize primary prevention, and use available resources to help improve societal health. Use of the CBCAR framework is recommended to facilitate academic-community partnerships and relationships when designing and implementing service learning opportunities.