CONTACT: Patricia Harris
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
Nursing students learn about rewards, challenges of being school
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- School nursing in the 90s is more than dispensing
medication and calling parents of sick children -- now it can mean anything
from mainstreaming disabled kids into the classroom to running health promotion
and disease prevention workshops.
Some University of Iowa College of Nursing students are learning firsthand
about the challenges that come with nursing in schools. They work hand
in hand with school nurses, helping them with major projects and everyday
needs -- in short, they become part of a school district's team. It's all
part of the coursework for the College of Nursing class "Nursing in
Community Health," a requirement for all senior nursing students.
All students in the course must complete 80 hours of community nursing
work outside the classroom.
Not all the students in the class choose school nursing but it is becoming
an increasingly popular choice among them. There are more than a dozen
students from the class involved in school nursing this semester, and faculty
have a goal of getting about 20 students into school nursing environments.
Numbers have been as high as 18, depending on the number of students in
"When we first started, we had only about three students at the
undergraduate level doing school nursing," says Ann Marie McCarthy,
UI assistant professor of nursing and one of four faculty members who teaches
the course. "Since then, the numbers have gone up and we've decided
that this is a really ideal experience for students."
One of the districts involved in the program is Mount Vernon. The school
nurse for the district is Lois Pavelka, a 15-year veteran of school nursing
who is also a graduate student in the College of Nursing. The spring 1997
semester is her third working with students from the class.
"It's been excellent. They've taught me, and I've taught them,"
Pavelka said of the three nursing students who have worked in the Mount
Vernon schools. "They've been a major help in special projects I didn't
know were going to happen."
An example of such a project was during Pavelka's first semester of
involvement with the nursing students. A child was identified as a carrier
of hepatitis-b and an immunization and information campaign had to be started.
Pavelka and the student organized the clinics, raised the funds for them,
informed parents and the community, and scheduled the immunizations. Immunizations
were then administered by the Linn County Health Department. Pavelka estimates
that 70 percent of the more than 1,000 students in the district were immunized.
Students took on other projects of their own, Pavelka said. In the past,
those have included programs about allergic reactions, dental health, and
hand washing. Pavelka says she's been impressed with the students' abilities
to work with the community, which is especially important in a town the
size of Mount Vernon.
Suzanne Hammer, a December graduate from the College of Nursing, was
Pavelka's first nursing student and worked with her during the hepatitis-b
crisis. She says she went into the school nursing environment with some
apprehension but left it recommending it to younger students for their
community nursing experience.
"It opened up a whole new area of nursing for me. I had thought
that school nursing was a thing of the past," she says. "I would
definitely consider (working in) school nursing in the future."
Now a nurse in diagnostic neurology at the UI Hospitals and Clinics,
Hammer says the hepatitis-b immunization clinics were a great learning
experience, as were the many programs she put together for students during
her time there. It also taught her a great deal about working with children,
Instructors in the Nursing in Community Health class have found other
ways to get their school nursing students involved in the communities in
which they work. The UI class started a new program in the fall 1996 semester
that pairs the nursing students with a pharmacy student also working in
the community. The two students work together on special projects, and
it is a chance for them to work with a health care professional from another
Faculty say the new program is another sign of the changing times in
health care - more communication between and among health care disciplines
in order to promote the health of a population as a whole. As school nurses
are faced with more responsibilities, faculty say they expect to see more
students interested in school nursing.