Community Health Promotion in action at the H’art School
In the Faculty of Health Sciences, we are always looking to provide our students with opportunities to experience service learning, which is a strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction. In the School of Nursing, one of the unique courses that incorporates service learning is Nursing 405: Practicum in Community Health Promotion. Providing hands-on community experience, the course allows nursing students to work in small teams to create and implement a health promotion project that contributes to the work of a community agency and the clients they serve. This term, the Nursing 405 students are spending two days each week working on one of 17 different projects for various community organizations, gaining real-life experience that will serve them well beyond graduation.
Taylor Kotchapaw and Arash Sadeghi are two students who are currently working with the H’art School, a centre that gives adults with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to reach their highest potential through education and the arts. “It’s refreshing having a hands-on nursing experience outside of clinical or hospital work. It displays the variety in the field that is constantly talked about in class,” says Arash.
The nursing students have been tasked with designing and delivering a workshop on healthy relationships for the students of the H’art School. Taylor explains the project has multiple purposes. “First, it helps students learn appropriate social interactions with volunteers, staff, and peers at the centre. Second, our hope is that teaching social boundaries will help students at H’art develop and maintain healthy friendships, thereby increasing their overall physical and mental well-being. Lastly, it is widely recognized that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at much higher risk for abuse, so it’s important for them to understand when other people are being inappropriate as a means to protect themselves.”
Anita Boldt, Education Director of H’art School, oversees Taylor and Arash’s work in the centre. “They are a great addition to our program. The students have taken to them very warmly and they have quickly established a rapport with our students.“
“Being at the H’art School helps to make the project more relevant,” explains Arash. “We are not only making our workshop evidence-based but also basing it directly on the needs of the specific community. What better way to know the community than to be a part of it for a while?” Taylor agrees, “When it comes time for us to implement our health workshop, they have a relationship with us and will be willing to listen to what we have to say.”
Taylor says working with an interprofessional team of teachers, social work students, developmental aid students, occupational therapy students, and personal support workers at the school has been a highlight. “It has been an insightful experience to learn about what other professions’ priorities are and how they approach similar issues within the same population…This has been a huge learning experience. I’ve learned a lot about communicating with individuals who may have cognitive or sensory impairments. Nurses need to be excellent communicators and what I’ve learned at H’art School will be a huge advantage throughout my career.”
Taylor and Arash will present their Healthy Relationships workshop to Ms. Boldt and the students of the H’art School later this month. To learn more about the H’art School program, you can visit www.hartschool.ca.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on the nursing course in the comments below, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House. My door is always open.
I would like to thank Emma Woodman for her assistance with this blog.