How to Embrace (and Love?) Community Engagement

Saturday, 29 July 2017: 8:50 AM

Melissa A. Wholeben, PhD
School of Nursing, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA
Carla J. Ellis, MSN
School of Nursing, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA

Identify the teaching challenge

As healthcare moves into the 21stcentury, it is vital that educators create learning environments that give students the opportunity to practice what they have learned in didactic. However, with the major influx of students in clinical sites, it has become necessary to think outside the box for potential community opportunities. In addition there is content overload to contend with and the pressure from outside stakeholders and accreditation bodies to create service learning education opportunities. Trying to incorporate these educational goals creates some challenges in creating projects that incorporate these demands. Health Fairs and other community engagement projects are time consuming and demanding but there is a great deal of literature on how to attack this endeavor with great success in all your goals.

What have you learned from conferences, online sources about your challenge?

Research has shown us that it is important to incorporate classroom learning with an opportunity to practice. In addition, it is important to present an environment that not only promotes ‘learning in the form of practice’ but also gives the students a feeling of pride and accomplishment in their ability to help others. Health fairs are one way in which the community is engaged and can promote excellent communication skills in nursing students. Planning health fairs seems daunting but is well used and researched on how to create a successful one. Putting the health fair into a project format is a active learning tool to promote concepts in almost any course/clinical objective.

Describe the intervention

By partnering with local TV stations, and interdisciplinary teams, our senior students have had the opportunity to provide healthcare in the form of prevention teachings and screenings to the El Paso community. The students determine the leading health concerns for the El Paso region; research best practice measures by means of Evidence Based Practice; and present the material using the domains of learning (cognitive, affective and psychomotor), using primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies. We hope to present the ways in which this can be produced in any course to meet your objectives as well as all stakeholders.

Qualitative and/or Quantitative feedback

The students have provided overwhelmingly positive comments of “I was able to teach the participant about diabetes and strategies to stay healthy” and “It was amazing to see how many people came to the health fair to get screened for Blood Pressure and Height/Weight/BMI”. "I felt I made a difference" As a personal observation, it is rewarding to see the students become excited about community health and present their knowledge to the community in a form of wellness project. Addressing the possibility of burn out in this endeavor due to the work of developing this sort of project will also be discussed.

Future Plans

Next steps would be to create even more “real world” application by partnering with local hospitals and disciplines within the UTEP community to assist in producing a Community Needs Assessments on a local Colonia to assist in getting health care assistance there. Also a possibility is for student participation in research, partnering with graduate programs to produce real world information. The literature is rich in the possibilities of where these can go after you dip your feet in the process.