Nursing students plan health fair in Prairie Ridge
May 18, 2007
UW Tacoma faculty teach importance of community nursing.
Nursing is about more than sick patients in hospitals.
Good nurses know that effective health care reaches out to communities, not just individuals. It's a key component of the UW Tacoma bachelor's and master's programs in Nursing. Now, UW Tacoma's Nursing students have been tapped to help a community in need.
A dozen students from Karen Landenburger's Health, Communities and Populations class are spearheading the first-ever Healthy Community Fair in Bonney Lake's Prairie Ridge community Saturday, May 19 from noon to 4 p.m. Part of a class project on community nursing, the free event is designed to bring valuable information about health and prevention to a community that historically has lacked health-care access and awareness.
The Prairie Ridge Community Coalition is taking steps to change the neighborhood for the better, and came to the UW Tacoma Nursing program for health-care help. The students in Landenburger's class determined that the best way to disseminate information about health would be to organize a fair.
"These students are hoping to get people out of their houses to meet their neighbors and learn more about taking charge of their health," Landenburger says. "It's just as important for this community to build togetherness as it is for them to gain access to health care."
The fair will include interactive games and kids' activities, a food drive and a free raffle. Participants can learn about local health, safety and community resources, get screened for health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and pick up tips on hand-washing, dental care and healthy living. The UW Tacoma nursing students worked closely with the Prairie Ridge Community Coalition and the Tacoma/Pierce County Health Department to create a full slate of events and educational opportunities at the health fair.
"It's a good opportunity to meet people in the community and provide them with valuable information," UW Tacoma student Barbara Kreutz of Olympia says.
One of the state's largest mobile-home parks, Prairie Ridge has been plagued with a poverty and a number of residents who are elderly, disabled or unwilling to leave their homes, Landenburger says. In addition, residents move in and out of the neighborhood rapidly. Many residents can't, or won't, visit doctors regularly, and others aren't educated about basic health issues.
Landenburger, who has taught community health care at UW Tacoma since 1992, says projects like this one help nursing students understand how they can improve community health.
"Housing, political systems, health resources - they all come together to shape every individual's health," Landenburger says. "Most health care is given outside of hospitals. We want to prepare our students to work not just as individual caregivers, but as health professionals who work with communities as a whole."
Monica Gaub, the coordinator of the Prairie Ridge Community Coalition, says the UW Tacoma students are already making a difference in the community.
"Prairie Ridge's partnership with the University of Washington Tacoma Nursing Program has really brought about a new perspective," she said. "We are looking at the total health of the community and mobilizing to effectively identify needs and identify new pathways to reach out to serve everyone. It has been a blessing to work with each and every one of these students."
UW Tacoma's nursing students, who work as registered nurses as they take classes toward their bachelor's degree, say the class has opened their eyes to new aspects of health care.
"As a nurse, I've always dealt with people on an individual basis," student Lisa Gallagher of Chehalis says. "I didn't understand the impact their environment and community could have on them. If we can provide education and preventative care, we could remove a huge burden from the health-care system in the long run."
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