Gannon University’s Villa Maria School of Nursing faculty and students are leveraging a partnership with the Saint Benedict Child Development Center in Erie to provide health care awareness and educational opportunities to the center’s pre-school children and their families.
The program, called Healthy Kids at St. Ben’s, is sponsored through a $5,000 grant from the Stackpole-Hall Foundation, which assists organizations and institutions in enhancing the social welfare of the area.
The program will launch this coming all to serve socioeconomically disadvantaged families by providing the knowledge and tools needed to best care for their child’s health and developmental needs.
“We are a community-based program,” said Lisa Quinn, Ph.D., C.R.N.P., M.S.N., associate professor of nursing. “We look at people where they are at in our community and reach out to them in service.”
Under the leadership of Quinn and Shannon Scully, M.S.N., R.N., instructor of nursing, junior-level pediatric nursing students will deliver weekly sessions that focus on age-appropriate health care education while completing coursework requirements through the program.
In addition, graduate nursing students in the family nurse practitioner program will collaborate with the undergraduate students to plan educational programming and provide services as part of their pediatric practicum coursework, making this a unique and professional role-modeling experience as well.
As part of the sessions, students will offer educational experiences that focus on the family as the primary caregiver and the prevention of pediatric health issues. Activities will focus on health and hygiene, proper coughing, sneezing and handwashing, dental care, nutrition and exercise.
Students at St. Ben’s, 345 East 9th St., will also receive LeapFrog LeapPads that are pre-loaded with fun, interactive learning games that educate them around health care awareness through problem-solving, science, mathematics, reading and writing.
After each session, students will take home a laminated pictorial summary of the week’s lesson that can be used as a reminder for the family to continue healthy behaviors throughout the week.
“Ultimately, we want to instill healthy habits in children,” Scully said. “Reaching the kids at a young age with these different ways to promote health — like wearing a bicycle helmet or eating healthy — encourages the whole family to be healthy.”
The semester will conclude with a health fair for students and their families as a way to provide further education through interactive demonstrations.
Scully said program will also provide invaluable fieldwork experience for Gannon students.
“A good portion of nursing is educating others. Educating helps prevent re-admission to hospitals and creates healthy habits. To give our students an opportunity to educate a pre-school child will really benefit them in the future if they have to educate children or families in a hospital setting,” Scully said.
Gannon’s nursing program faculty and students have collaborated with St. Ben’s on similar programs in the past. Quinn said the experience proved to be invaluable and she hopes to see it continue well into the future.
Dawn Joy, Ph.D., R.N., associate dean of the Villa Maria School of Nursing, said the initiative supports the Villa Maria School of Nursing’s longstanding traditions.
“The Villa Maria School of Nursing at Gannon University has a long tradition of guiding the next generation of exceptional professional nurses who embody a commitment to their community,” Joy said. “The opportunity to impact health care awareness for young children and their families afforded by the Stackpole-Hall Foundation serves to further support this tradition.”
Brianna Mariotti is a marketing and content strategist for Gannon University.