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Thursday, April 15th, 2010 - 10:24 am

Getting the word out about lupus

By Erika Rose

Nursing students learn community stewardship with display project

In response to a new focus of Purdue University Calumet’s nursing capstone course, area hospitals and health agencies are doling out projects to students that address real challenges within their organizations and facilitate needed change.

From the point of view of community partners, like Lynn Olszewski of the Northwest Indiana Health Education Center, “Whenever you can work with health profession students, the energy, knowledge and enthusiasm they bring adds to what you are doing.”


Better educational tools needed

Olszewski saw a need for better educational tools related to lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease affecting various parts of the body. The Lupus Foundation and its founder, Phyllis Simko, Olszewski proposed, would benefit from help Purdue Calumet nursing students could provide disseminating accurate and up-to-date information about the notoriously difficult to diagnose and difficult to cope with disease.

The goal, Olszewski says, was to develop a model of lupus educational and screening booths and displays that would be audience-specific.


Research & development

Laura Graham, Kirstin O’Block and Tracey Cable, now nursing graduates, got to work. First, they researched the evidence to determine what should be included on the display. Then, they developed educational materials targeted at two audiences: the general public and those living with lupus. The materials included signs and symptoms of the disease and a comprehensive list of rheumatologists and other resources for patients.

Finally, the former students presented their completed materials and display to the Lupus Foundation and manned their new display at a health fair at Indiana University Northwest.

By developing an educational display for the Lupus Foundation, nursing capstone students, from left, Laura Haynes of Munster, Tracey Cable of Highland and Kirsten O’Block of Lansing, IL learned about project management and community stewardship.

By developing an educational display for the Lupus Foundation, nursing capstone students, from left, Laura Haynes of Munster, Tracey Cable of Highland and Kirsten O’Block of Lansing, IL learned about project management and community stewardship.


Not just about taking care of sick people

Cable of Highland says she learned how to build and manage a project from the ground up, as well as about community stewardship and its importance to the nursing profession.

“It helps you develop community contacts, and you kind of realize that nursing isn’t just about taking care of a sick person,” she said. “. . . I can be involved in the community, and I can have all these contacts and be on all these committees and boards and have my opinion out there.”


Grass roots assistance

Purdue Calumet Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor Joan Dorman served as the students’ faculty preceptor. She sees the capstone projects as a unique way of teaching students how to make meaningful changes to healthcare.

“What I feel is to be taken from this capstone (class) is the opportunity to do things that will benefit the public and patients at a grass roots level — at the level of the change agent, the person who is making changes that are going to benefit the public in the future,” she said. “These students have an opportunity, not only to see how this works so that it can be done, but also how to participate in the process.”