Nursing students in Dr. Sandra MacDonald’s fourth-year complex care class at Memorial’s School of Nursing turned a great learning experience into an event that has potential to help cancer patients around the world!
The students planned, promoted and organized ‘Get Swabbed’ over two days in November, and attracted almost twice as many donors as they had hoped would sign up for OneMatch, the Canadian Blood Services' stem cell and marrow network.
Get Swabbed searches for eligible donors for stem cell transplants and creates an international registry of donors. According to the Canadian Blood Services web site “international registries have significantly increased the odds of being able to find a matching donor for any patient, anywhere in the world”.
Stem cells are immature cells that can become either red blood cells (which carry oxygen), white blood cells (which fight infection) or platelets (which help to stop bleeding) and all of these can significantly help cancer patients to battle their disease.
“We were very pleased and proud with the turn out,” said Rebecca Puddester who volunteered with 20 of her classmates to organize Get Swabbed in the main foyer of the Health Sciences Centre.
Rebecca’s classmate Ashley Linehan coordinated the event, inspired to bring the campaign to the Health Sciences Centre after her involvement in a Get Swabbed event in Alberta.
And it was a perfect fit for Dr. MacDonald’s class, which requires students to “…. work with patient populations to practice holistic nursing within a variety of settings by collaborating with patients and families in the achievement of health and well-being.”
Ashley’s particular focus … holistic care to patients and families with a diagnosis of cancer while hospitalized in the ICU …was just the incentive she needed to bring Get Swabbed to the School of Nursing.
It was very much a team effort that made it possible to run the successful Get Swabbed campaign, and following the two-day event students were excited about what they accomplished.
“We were able to provide a lot of information and dispel some common misconceptions about bone marrow and stem cell donation,” said Rebecca, who along with many of her classmates immediately saw the merits of ‘Get Swabbed’. “It really was an amazing process.”
That’s music to the ears of Dr. MacDonald, who along with faculty at Memorial University’s School of Nursing have a strong commitment to building community engagement into their curriculum, as a way to develop their connection to community, but also to broaden and deepen their learning experience.
Last year Dr. MacDonald helped mentor a group of fourth years students who launched ‘Spread the Net’ on campus, raising funds to support anti-malaria efforts in Africa.
Reaching out to community also helps students think in a holistic way about their patient populations, said Dr. MacDonald.
“As nursing students they gain an in depth understanding of the complexities of caring for patients experiencing cancer and they learn that these ICU patients are more than just a heap of tubes and technology in the bed, they are a real person with a real life outside of the hospital.”