As part of course NURS 354 – Addressing the Social Determinants of Health: Community Engagement Immersion, Penn Nursing juniors Isabel Braun and Morgan Shick spent time each week at Kensington Health Sciences Academy (KHSA) working with teenage students, and together, prepared these students for their final exam. Isabel shared her thoughts and the process behind developing the exam-prep boot camp with Morgan and reflected on the experience overall. Penn’s involvement at KHSA is part of the Penn Futures Project collaboration between Penn Nursing, GSE, and SP2.
“Relatable,” “Helpful,” “Innovative,” and “Admirable.” These are terms pulled from the word clouds that KHSA students made to describe Morgan and me. After a semester spent with the students, it felt great to know that we had really connected with them and I gained so much insight from my community experience at KHSA.
I initially came to KHSA with my own ideas about what would work well for the students and soon realized that this group had their own ideas as well! I had to learn to be flexible and adapt to the students’ specific needs and assess what kind of approach would be most helpful for them. I learned several valuable life lessons – the importance of asking questions, being curious, and thinking critically about an individual’s or population’s needs, and then tailoring an approach to best suit them. I also found the importance and value of ridding myself of preconceived notions.
To graduate from KHSA, all students enrolled in the Health-Related Technology class are required to take the NOCTI exam (similar to an AP test) in their senior year. There are two portions to the NOCTI: the didactic (multiple choice) and the simulation. Over the course of the year, Morgan and I helped the students prepare for the theory portion through class games and by preparing lesson plans every week. We met with GSE interns who were also working at KHSA to get their insights on working with the students; a great benefit of being involved with Penn Futures. We realized that the students were much less comfortable with the simulation skills for the exam’s hands-on portion. Once we realized this, our primary goal became to change it. With the guidance of Dr. Kate McDonald, we developed a boot camp to help prepare them.
There were six stations with students rotating between them every 15 minutes. Each nursing student would lead a station, which encompassed everything the students were required to perform for the NOCTI. The stations included:
- Donning/doffing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Vital signs
- Removing an old gown from a patient and putting on a new one
- Transferring a patient with left-sided weakness to and from bed and wheelchair
- Hand washing
Morgan and I created checklists for each station for the students to follow, provided oversight for the stations, and monitored the 15 minute time rotations. We also recruited six nursing student volunteers for both weeks to lead and teach each station. The KHSA senior class was about 25-30 students and there were about 40-50 tenth graders, some learning these skills for the first time.
The boot camp was a true team effort. Drs. Terri Lipman and Kate McDonald, our nursing advisors, were instrumental in providing assistance and direction. Penn Nursing lecturer Monique Dowd helped with recruitment of students from her nutrition class, and KHSA Principal Nimet Erin and HRT teachers Ms. Orr and Ms. Adkins provided support as well. Not to mention the undergraduate and graduate nursing students who volunteered their time!
NURS354 helped me realize that health is not just determined by one single factor. Health is a spectrum, and optimal health is, in my opinion, an unachievable myth. I think that we should focus on a person’s ability to function successfully within the context of their environment and conditions, and health care providers (including myself as a future RN) should create an open discussion where patients have the space to discuss their specific needs and concerns. I will personally strive to talk with patients, not at them. Working together to create solutions will improve one’s health in the context of their individual lives.