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(January 10, 2002, Gazette)

Nursing students exceed expectations


Nursing students Amanda Ross (L) and Sara MacIntosh (R) demonstrate the Health for Me Web site to instructor Dr. Violeta Ribeiro.

In a small room at the Masonic Park Nursing Home community centre in St. John’s, a computer with Internet service is now at the service of seniors. The brainchild of final-year nursing students Amanda Ross and Sara MacIntosh, the computer offers seniors access to their own e-mail accounts as well as a Web page they developed, Health for Me.

“We wanted to leave something for people to access health information for themselves,” explained Ms. Ross. “We wanted to empower these people to look after themselves.”

Ms. MacIntosh said that they developed the Health for Me site to provide an easy navigation tool to trustworthy information on common health problems such as diabetes.

So far, the e-mail accounts have proved particularly popular, allowing seniors the opportunity to stay in touch with relatives living away.

The two nursing students set up the computer and the Web site as part of their course work in community health. But they did far more than this. The first task set by the St. John’s Nursing Home and the Masonic Park Complex was for the students to develop a questionnaire for over 200 healthy seniors who reside in Masonic Park apartments and cottages. Developing and distributing the questionnaire — which included obtaining approval from the university’s Human Investigation Committee — was a large job. The response rate was 36 per cent, which pleases the students; the analysis of results will be done at the School of Nursing’s Research Unit by the faculty member who supervised their work.

Masonic Park Complex is pleased with the work done by the students, particularly the survey. “We wanted to assess the needs of our tenants in cottages and by partnering with the School of Nursing we’re getting the information we need,” explained Sandra Strickland, site coordinator. “We already know that our seniors need such services as ongoing well clinics, nutritional counseling and visits. It’s been a learning experience for all of us.”

Ms. Strickland said the two nursing students went far beyond her expectations. They started with a “meet-and-greet” social featuring a tasty spread of food they arranged to have donated from local businesses. That proved popular with the seniors; the students followed up with a number of workshops on wellness topics and blood pressure checks. “We had the opportunity to develop our own interventions and we thought carefully about what the topics would do,” said Ms. Ross.

Instructor Dr. Violeta Ribeiro is very pleased with the extra effort the two students put into their course. “It’s a good example of what students can do when they put their minds to it. We have many other students at the MUN School of Nursing, the Centre for Nursing Studies, and Western Memorial School of Nursing who do very good work in this course. It teaches students to work in pairs to identify health promotion needs, or interests, of various population groups and then engage in health promotion activities to address them.” Other MUN faculty members who currently teach this course, Judith Blakeley and Lorna Bennett, share this view.

After classes ended, Ms. Ross and Ms. MacIntosh were still tidying up the tail end of their project. Their hope now is that the seniors interested in the computer will form a computer club and use the on-loan machine enough to convince the board at Masonic Park that it should be a permanent benefit.