Campus News

July 6, 2010

A field experience in service for nurses

In June, 34 nursing students and faculty from the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing traveled 225 miles south of Atlanta to Moultrie, Ga. to provide health care to nearly 1,000 impoverished farm workers and their children. During this two-week intensive service-learning program, the nurse practitioner and undergraduate nursing students worked 16 hours a day, attaining more than 90 clinical hours.

The program has two components: By day, the students work at Cox Elementary School with farm worker children; and each evening, they set up mobile clinics to treat adult farm workers. The students work alongside other allied health students in physical therapy, psychology, pharmacy and dental hygiene to bring desperately needed health care to one of Georgia’s most medically underserved populations.

“It is so important for us to provide health care to these workers because of social justice,” says Judith Wold ’81 MN, a visiting professor in Emory’s School of Nursing and director of the Farm Worker Family Health Program. “Health care is a terrible problem in this country and it’s multiplied 100 times for these workers.”

Migrant farm workers face more complex health issues than the general population because of the physical demands of their jobs, pesticide exposure, poor access to health care services and poor living conditions. The nursing students typically treat farm workers for a wide array of health issues, ranging from skin and eye irritation to diagnosing diabetes and anemia.

“Our clinics may be the only health care they get during the year,” Wold says. “The farm workers are very hardworking people and they are so appreciative of the health care we give them.”

Wold, who has participated in this project since its launch in 1994, estimates that the Farm Worker Family Health Program has treated more than 14,000 farm workers over the course of the program’s 16-year history. Wold said the program would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of a consistent group of faculty and alumni who work with them annually.

Laura Page Layne ’05N-’06MN-’06PH began working with the Farm Worker Family Health Program eight years ago when she was an Emory student. Layne is a clinical nurse supervisor for the Good Samaritan Clinic in Atlanta and she uses her vacation time to come back to Moultrie year after year because she knows she’s making a difference in the lives of migrant farm worker families.

“I know my efforts are making an impact on the health of the farm workers and their children. I have always been service-oriented, but I’ve learned a deeper meaning of service while working with this program,” Layne says. “This program also helped put me on track for a long-term career in providing care for underserved populations.”

After packing up the mobile clinics and returning to Atlanta, many students said the Farm Worker Family Health Program was a life-changing training experience that will redefine the way they practice nursing in the future. Read more about the students’ experiences with the Farm Worker Family Health Program on the Emory Nursing Blog.

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