Community Health Nursing: A Service Learning Experience

By Patrick O., RN

Students in NUR 448 Community Health Nursing engage in a service learning experience as part of the requirement of the course. This experience provides students with the opportunity to apply what is being learned in the course to the real world, while reflecting on the link between this experience, the content of the course, the role of the public health nurse, and population health. Service learning is not a new idea. In fact, Florence Nightingale is credited with setting the stage for nurses to work in the community with vulnerable or at-risk individuals and families.

Patrick O., a current BS in nursing capstone student, chose the Special Olympics New Mexico to complete his service learning experience requirement. The vulnerable population selected was individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) in San Juan County, New Mexico. Patrick chose Special Olympics New Mexico due to his desire to work with, and gain a better understanding of, the dynamics and challenges faced by individuals with ID and their families.

Patrick is now in the process of putting together a select group of people from San Juan Regional Medical Center and Special Olympics New Mexico to determine the possibility of building a partnership between the two organizations to implement a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes group in San Juan County. If all goes well, he hopes to educate healthcare providers about interacting with patients with ID in the healthcare setting. In addition, the project will offer health screenings to Special Olympic athletes at least quarterly in San Juan County, as well as extend the health screenings to individuals with ID who are not part of the Special Olympics community.

Patrick (like many NUR 448 students) found after completing his service learning requirement, the desire to continue volunteering for the organization and realized the true meaning of “giving back” to his community.