Population Focused Nursing Practice is taught in the senior fall semester for the students in the Undergraduate Nursing Program, and in the spring semester for the RN Completion students. All students in the course are assigned to a service learning project as part of the course requirements.
Projects are selected by faculty and arise out of needs identified in the community. Community partners may seek the assistance of nursing students to help meet identified community health needs. Other projects are developed based upon faculty knowledge regarding evidence-based, population level health interventions. Faculty involvement in numerous community committees and activities leads to opportunities to collaborate with community partners so that initiatives may target the appropriate populations.
Students meet with the community partner for orientation to the agency and initial project planning. A timeline and objectives are developed jointly with the community partner. The students must complete an assessment of the overall community, and of the target population that will be served with the service learning project. Students work with the clinical faculty and community partner to identify appropriate evidence-based health interventions for their service learning project.
Reflection is an integral part of service learning, and the students write three “reflection journals” with responses to specific statements and questions that are submitted at the end of the project. The students also write a formal paper, give a presentation of the project to classmates (and community partners are invited), and do a peer evaluation on group members.
An example of a recent service learning project is the Million Hearts initiative. Million Hearts is a national initiative to empower Americans to make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and to improve clinical care for persons who need treatment. The initiative focuses on the “ABCS”: aspirin for persons at risk; blood pressure control; cholesterol management; and smoking cessation. Million Hearts emphasizes evidence-based practice and aims to reach its goals through education and increased awareness about preventing heart disease and stroke, improving care for hypertension and high cholesterol, and community efforts around smoke-free air policies and sodium reduction.
Senior level nursing students worked with community partners to provide cholesterol and blood pressure screenings and education, utilizing tools and materials available through the Million Hearts website. The service learning project focused on reaching at-risk, underserved populations who may not have access to screening and education. Community partners in this endeavor included an inner-city faith based ministry where screenings and education were offered during a “soup kitchen” meal; a “halfway house” for State and Federal inmates; an early childhood learning center in an impoverished neighborhood; and Homeless Connect, a “one-stop” community event for homeless and near homeless persons to access needed resources.
Students involved in the Million Hearts project developed an increased awareness of this national, population-focused health initiative, implemented evidence-based approaches to prevention, addressed health disparities, and provided health services to vulnerable, underserved populations.
Million Hearts http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/be_one_mh.html