Partnering for a Pediatric Pathway to Success
The University of South Florida’s College of Nursing launched a new community outreach initiative this summer that pairs pediatric nursing students with at-risk youth in neighborhood community centers.
The new Peds to Succeed program is a partnership between the college and the City of Tampa Police Department, which runs the R.I.C.H. House programs in Sulphur Springs and Robles Park — two sites where officers offer free educational and social enrichment activities to children living in high-crime and impoverished neighborhoods.
One of the goals of the nursing partnership is to help train pediatric nursing students in a community setting by providing wellness education programs to underserved neighborhoods. These student-led lessons will concentrate on wellness through student engagement, outreach, and service.
For example, nursing students taking a psychology or behavioral health class might complete the course’s required clinical hours at one of the two R.I.C.H. House locations, instead of at a hospital or clinic.
“As a component of behavioral health, we’re using this experience to help fill some of their clinical time. Our intent is to grow the program and embed these experiences into other courses in order to provide opportunities outside of the acute care setting,” said College of Nursing Instructor Natasha Zurcher, EdD, MSN, RN, CPN.
Dr. Zurcher said the nursing students will develop a pediatric-centered curriculum focusing on early prevention and health promotion, covering topics like hydration, water safety, sun safety, feelings and manners. The students will then deliver a 20-minute educational activity for the youth campers and apply the skills they learned about pediatric growth and development.
“It’s hard for them to think, ‘Oh, wow, this is clinical’ because they are using a different set of skills,” she said. “We’re getting them to see the patient before they come to the hospital. It really gets them to see the other side of it.”
Dr. Zurcher said College of Nursing leaders see this program expanding long-term to go beyond the pediatric scope, to include other populations such as maternal, adult, and geriatric clients.
College of Nursing Assistant Professor Sharlene Smith, DNP, ARNP, CPNP, says this program is just the beginning for more community outreach. They plan to bring pediatric nurse practitioner students for health fairs, back-to-school physicals, and sports physicals.
“As health care deliverers, we need to meet people where they live and try to focus more on preventative rather than reactionary health care,” said Dr. Smith. “This program is allowing the College of Nursing to do just that by getting back into the community and giving back.”
The Peds to Succeed program is underwritten by the Leaders in Care campaign, a College of Nursing-fundraising initiative geared toward advancing nursing education at USF. The campaign, which launched in November 2018, includes donations from faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the college and will fund new projects within the college each year.
On a recent on-site visit at the North Tampa Community Center, nursing students helped young campers as they learned computer programming in the computer lab, followed by a lesson on feelings created by the Bull student nurses.
Nursing student Courtney Bennett, who helped plan the activity, said that while the day’s experience with the children is not your typical clinical experience, it was still engaging and enriching.
“We’re getting a lot of therapeutic communication with the pediatric population and learning about how to handle and talk with this population. We’re definitely going to see this population in the nursing setting, so it’s nice to be exposed to it now,” she said.
Fellow nursing student Corinn Meyer welcomed the new experience.
“It’s not necessarily a hospital setting, but there’s quite a bit to learn about communication and how to talk and interact with this population,” Meyer said. “We may not get much experience with that in a standard hospital setting. I think we’re all having a good time here.”
The pair, along with nursing student Avrie Bianco, helped research and design the lesson on feelings and anger. After talking with the campers, they played a feelings-themed Bingo game and gave out bright yellow emoji stress balls to the winners.
“I think it went well. I think they were receptive. A couple of them really wanted to learn about their emotions,” Bianco said.
Story and photos by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing