Wichita State University

Wichita State University

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Overview of the curriculum innovation

Wichita State University has completed a pilot project in public health nursing education involving 30 pre-licensure students in an accelerated program.  Service learning concepts provided the framework for the curricular innovation pilot.

The purpose of the pilot project was to provide on-site population-focused nursing services at community agencies not previously utilized as clinical sites for the “Care of Populations” course. Two under-resourced private elementary schools and one PACE1 program site agreed to participate. No other schools of nursing were present during the clinical rotation, eliminating issues of competition for clinical placement sites.  Clinical experiences were complemented by the didactic portion of the course which provided contextual knowledge to support the students’ field projects.  Several guest speakers visited class including health department nurses and APRNs.  

Accelerated students and experienced faculty worked closely together with faculty remaining on site to facilitate and troubleshoot as needed. These accelerated students required very little direct supervision. They brainstormed, reviewed literature, developed work groups, divided assignments, and ultimately performed at a high level that was not anticipated.  Personal maturity and the strong work ethic for which accelerated students are known were likely contributing factors.

At the schools, students collaborated with students, principals, pastors, teachers, and cooks to determine areas of need that could be impacted rapidly in a short period of time.  Health promotion needs were paramount, especially those related to risk assessment, water safety, nutrition, oral care, physical activity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  Assessment and planning involved windshield surveys, visits to health departments and neighborhood grocery stores, among others. Interventions included age-appropriate experiential healthy snack classes, health fairs, and culturally appropriate parent education.  New cafeteria policies regarding portion sizes and after school snacks are in process as a result of the students’ work at one school.

At the PACE site, the COPD patient sub- population was the focus of most student activities based largely on the assessment of the interprofessional staff and quality improvement data. Direct and indirect interventions included educational materials such as films, power point presentations, and posters geared toward staff and participants (patients). Correct use of spacers with metered dose inhaled medications, home oxygen safety, and dietary salt alternatives were areas of focus for the COPD sub-population.  It will be interesting to see how these products are used in the future. Students noted that PACE bus drivers provided considerable social support while driving participants to and from various appointments and suggested future attention on the role of bus drivers and wellness promotion.

Implementation of this project required experienced and motivated faculty committed to innovation and to increasing nursing impact in community settings. Extra meetings were required to share experiences, ideas and to “tweak” the project as needed.  Evaluations of the pilot project were favorable from the students, faculty and communities involved and the project will be continued in the accelerated program.

Future plans include partnering with more area private schools (especially those in low income areas) and possibly with senior centers.  Traditional and accelerated public health faculty are currently working together to determine next steps in implementation of this clinical approach with much larger volumes  of traditional students. Further evaluation and impact assessment are needed.


Peggy Hernandez, EdD, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, CNE
Assistant Professor of Nursing
Wichita State University
College of Health Professions
School of Nursing
1845 Fairmount Street
Wichita KS 67260-0041