Nursing Students Provide Health Care and Education to Local Youth

Posted: January 15, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Marjorie Musick

For the past two decades, Mason’s School of Nursing (SON) has supplemented health care staffs in local elementary, middle and high schools by providing nurses in training.

Participants are assigned to a school in Loudoun, Alexandria or Arlington County for seven weeks. During their practicum they work directly with the school nurse to address the health concerns of children and teens.

Annually, approximately 140 junior-level traditional students participate in SON’s pediatric practicum program — an experience that allows them to practice the assessment and therapeutic skills necessary to succeed in the pediatric nursing field.

Erin Rodenburg giving presentation
Mason School of Nursing student Erin Rodenburg gives a nutrition presentation to a fifth grade class at Horizon Elementary School in Sterling, Va., as a part of her practicum.
Photo by Nicolas Tan

SON has the largest baccalaureate undergraduate nursing program in Virginia and is a major source of new nursing graduates to the Northern Virginia area. SON’s pediatric practicum is intended to benefit both the students and the community.

“Pediatric content, assessment and care are taught in the classroom, so this is the opportunity for them to apply that knowledge in the real world,” says Robin Remsburg, director of the School of Nursing and associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

“You have a lot of acuity in the schools, which provides exposure to a variety of medical issues and to the normal development of children and teens.”

Some of the most common issues that are brought to the school nurse’s office include classic ailments such as stomach aches, head bumps, and cuts and scrapes, as well as requests for treatment of peanut allergies, asthma, diabetes and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

“You still have emergent injuries from accidents on the playground. However, the chronic diseases that are in the mainstream now are much more prevalent in the school systems than they were in the past,” says Remsburg.

In addition to assisting the school’s nurse with caring for the children, students also prepare and deliver presentations promoting health and wellness. Subjects are selected based on the students’ assessment of the health learning needs of their assigned school’s population.

Past presentations have covered smoking, drugs, hygiene, nutrition, eating disorders and sexually transmitted diseases.

“The [Mason] students really get into the presentations, and the kids have a good time as well,” says Cara Cox, a SON instructor who worked as a school nurse prior to joining Mason’s faculty.

“I think that these wellness education projects really do contribute a lot to public health in the schools.”

“You learn how to look at someone’s ear in the classroom, but it’s totally different when you actually do it in real life. It’s so cool,” says Erin Rodenburg, a junior at Mason and a first-year nursing student who is currently conducting a practicum at Horizon Elementary School in Sterling, Va.

“I love being here. It’s so much fun.”

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