Helping hands

Nursing student Leah Peterson gives a blood glucose test.

It was a scene of organized chaos Saturday when the departments of nursing, and social work and human services at Kennesaw State University joined forces to bring much-needed health care services to the community of Caswyck Trails Apartments in Marietta, Ga.

“Our relationship with Kennesaw State allows us to bring health awareness to residents who do not have insurance, who are facing financial challenges or who do not have transportation,” said Barbara Johnson, Caswyck Rainbow Housing Corp.’s resident service coordinator. “The Kennesaw State folks have the heart for the community, and they have the passion, and it takes passion to come out and do what they do.”

More than 40 patients were screened for blood sugar, blood pressure, HIV and mental health issues. Four Kennesaw State faculty members – three nurse practitioners and one clinical social worker; 18 student volunteers – four KSU Health Clinic interns, two master of social work candidates, two human services students, six nursing students and four other students; six volunteer translators; and four community services providers provided the free health screenings.

“We are in the community, providing needed health services and also building relationships with community organizations that will benefit everyone,” said Vanessa Robinson-Dooley, assistant professor of social work. “For our students this provides an optimal opportunity for learning. They are able to observe, assess and treat the needs of real people. This is taking the classroom to the field and this is the greatest education we can provide any student.”

Before the health fair began, Assistant Professor of Nursing Nicole Mareno reviewed with the nursing students proper techniques for taking someone’s blood pressure and blood glucose levels. (“You want to prick the finger on the side, where the meaty part is.”) Students practiced on each other and faculty before their patients arrived at the community clubhouse, where child-sized tables and chairs were turned into a make-shift clinic.

“This is such a wonderful opportunity for the students to practice their clinical skills,” she said.

For first semester nursing student Keren Beltran, the fair is not just a good community service project, but it’s a good resume-builder as well.

“We’re teaching the community to take better care of themselves,” she said.

The health screenings are offered twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The nursing and social work and human services departments have been collaborating with Johnson and her Rainbow Housing organization since 2005. Rainbow Housing’s mission is to create and preserve quality, affordable housing for families and individuals of diverse ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds while supporting their well-being through the delivery of onsite social services programs.

While supported by faculty, the health fairs are organized and set-up by social work and human services students.

“It’s important that if we’re going to represent KSU, we’re taking care of the community,” said organizer and soon-to-be human services graduate Sheilitta Jackson. “Experience like this helps you understand what the real world is like, and helps you to decide if you want to stay in this field.”

Jackson, who woke up at 4:45 a.m. to go to her job at Home Depot before the three-hour fair began, said it was well worth the effort.

“I’m happy and grateful I had this opportunity to help others,” she said.

--Jennifer Hafer