Students tackle community health needs through projects

Seven "30-something" men sat cramped together in a hospital room, staring intently at a tiny newborn baby girl sleeping blissfully on a table before them. Their concentration could not have been greater had they been gathered in a corporate boardroom to observe a new project proposal.

The father of the infant was called to stand in front of his assembled peers - all brand-new dads. As four senior Emory nursing students directed each move, the father took off his daughter's doll-sized T-shirt in slow motion, carefully wet a washcloth, and bathed her as gently as if she were a piece of heirloom china. The bath was followed by demonstrations on umbilical cord cleaning, diaper changing and swaddling. Unaware of her stardom, the baby slept peacefully on. "Through our initial research," said nursing student Danice Lewis, "we found that fathers' involvement in the care of their newborns can be very beneficial to infant development. Often the moms get most of the training in newborn care."

This demonstration of infant care for fathers of newborns at Piedmont Hospital was one of 27 community health activities that comprised this year's annual Senior Innovative Projects at the School of Nursing. On Friday, March 8, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., during an open house at the nursing school, students will discuss their projects during a poster presentation.

Nursing Dean Dyanne Affonso created the projects three years ago, believing that the school's mission should include community partnerships accomplished through innovative health promotion activities.

The innovative projects run the gamut from nutrition to stress management to blood pressure screening. Some examples follow:

* In cooperation with the American Lung Association, nursing students are conducting a peer counseling program through Druid Hills High School and Fernbank Elementary School. The nursing students are teaching high school science students to lead a program in smoking prevention. Those students will make a videotape on smoking prevention that will be shown to the elementary-age students.

* Nursing students are using guided imagery and relaxation techniques to help cancer patients in Emory Hospital cope with the anxiety and pain related to treatment and examination procedures.

* At Decatur High School, nursing students are teaching adolescent moms how to tell whether they can safely treat common infant illnesses such as colic, ear infections, diaper rash or fevers at home, or whether they should take their children to a health care provider.

* At the Williamsburg Senior Center, where Emory already has an established clinic, nursing students are introducing the residents to the clinical staff and presenting them with an information booklet about day care, transportation, pharmacy delivery and food availability.

* In conjunction with Safe Kids of DeKalb, a group of students conducted a bicycle safety rodeo. The students distributed bike helmets and demonstrated correct helmet use and hand signals to students ages nine to 12.

"According to reports of children taken to emergency rooms because of bicycle accidents, this age group is at particularly high risk," pointed out nursing student Andrew Allen.

Other projects included blood pressure screening for homeless men, nutrition in adolescents and the elderly, newborn care for Vietnamese refugees, handwashing among children, art therapy for homeless children and breast-self exam for Russian immigrants.

-- Holly Korschun

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