As Iowa communities face a shortage of nurses, one program in the College of Nursing is attempting to help fill that shortage while also giving their students valuable professional development and community engagement experience. The Community and Public Health Nursing Practicum, approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing, place students in community organizations that provide public health care across Iowa.
While most students partner with organizations in Johnson and Washington counties, the College of Nursing regularly places students taking classes remotely at organizations closer to home and abroad. As a required course in the undergraduate nursing program, the practicum involves assessing a target population, defining the needs of that population, and then creating a project to help meet those needs.
Some examples include creating and distributing written information about potential symptoms to patients receiving their second COVID-19 vaccine, providing education about the flu vaccine, staffing a free blood pressure clinic at a local food bank, administering blood pressure and foot checks at the Shelter House of Iowa City, and giving free medical care at IC Compassion through the Mobile Clinic.
Theresa Bechtel, DNP, RN, PCCN, CNE, is a faculty member in the College of Nursing who teaches practicum. She said a key benefit is that students become familiar with working with the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics while the practicum showcases various community organizations that can benefit from partnerships with the College of Nursing. It also allows students to work with vulnerable populations in Iowa and fill gaps in health care and public health services.
Bechtel said the practicum strives to meet community partners where they are, developing projects that advance mutually shared goals and objectives. Practicum faculty are continually looking for new partners while ensuring they sustain past partner relationships.
Nursing students who completed the practicum indicate that working with these community organizations helps them better understand the broad impact of nursing.
One senior nursing student who worked with a group of young teenagers at the Iowa City Public Library said, "I enjoyed teaching kids about health and the spinal anatomy. Kids have a way of making you feel that you had made a difference."
Another student who worked with Systems Unlimited, a non-profit organization that serves people with disabilities, said, "I think that is what I love about working with people with disabilities - everyone is different."
"It is so important to get to know and understand each individual's needs and how to best care for them in the community," they said.
Most recently, students have been assisting with distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in Johnson, Linn, and Washington counties (pictured below). Through the Community and Public Health Nursing Practicum, nursing students are not only advancing their education, but they are also serving the public health needs of Iowa communities and making a difference in the lives of Iowans.