Student Nurses Integrate Community Health Interventions and Increase Access to Resources
February 2018 - On January 6, the Community Nurse Corps (CNC) celebrated its one year anniversary. The CNC is a unique community collaboration pairing registered nurses who are working and attending school at Samuel Merritt University Sacramento Campus to complete their bachelors of science in nursing degree with community agencies within the Sacramento Promise Zone. The program introduces acute care nurses who are employed registered nurses working at Sacramento region Kaiser hospitals to the challenges of community and public health delivery to underserved populations as part of their Community/public health coursework. Delivered in a hybrid format, nurses attend class one night a week in addition to completing online learning modules to complete the theory portion of their community/public health course work. In order to meet the qualifications for obtaining a Public Health Nursing Certificate in the State of California, the Board of Registered Nursing requires a nurse to complete 90 hours of community health clinical internship. CNC members are placed with Promise Zone Health Partners who oversee the internships. Because the nurses are all working nurses, internship hours are accrued when the nurses work schedules will allow – and the nurses typically spend a minimum of 4 hours per week at a partner agency over a two semester timeframe. However the hours can be flexed based on agency need. While assigned to the agency, the nurses, known as “Nurse Scholars” to acknowledge their professional standing as working nurses who are attending school, conduct a needs assessment of a defined population, design an educational program and a screening event based on the needs assessment, conduct the educational/screening program, and follow-up as needed e.g. making referrals for individuals with potential or actual health problems. RNs make recommendations for new or ongoing health services based on a review of evidence-based practices. The Nurse Scholars do screenings/educational sessions on any health related component e.g. diet/nutrition, mental health including stress management, physical fitness, emotional well-being, substance abuse, access to healthcare services, and other topics, as well as organize and conduct health fairs and community education events.
Through the Sacramento Promise Zone, the CNC receives support in connecting to potential community partners and fostering collaborations to enhance health and wellness of the Promise Zone’s residents across the lifespan. The Promise Zone staff has also been instrumental in helping to inform elected officials about health disparities and innovative interventions designed to mitigate the disparities in the under-served communities comprising the Promise Zone boundaries. Dr. Alice Vestergaard, Community and Public Health Instructor serves as the Samuel Merritt University liaison to the Promise Zone and oversees the community placements for all the Nurse Scholars. In that capacity, she works closely with the SHRA and Promise Zone staff, including the AmeriCorps Vistas assigned to the respective focus areas of the Promise Zone, as well as all agency partnership personnel and site coordinators who oversee the work of the Nurse Scholars during their internships. The CNC partners to date include the following: La Familia Counseling, Inc., Urban Strategies Inc., The Health Education Council, Well Space Health, and Martin Luther King Technology Academy. Without the Promise Zone, the collaborations would have never happened and the Promise Zone has been the bridge to put all the stakeholders together. As a result, the collaborating agencies have been the beneficiaries of having experienced registered nursing working directly on site with the collaborative agency and the constituents served by the respective agency partners -performing planning, health education and screening functions. Nurse Scholars have also performed strategic planning and created program planning documents for their respective host agencies based on research of evidenced-based health-promoting practices/policies of other programs serving specialized populations. Diabetes education and cardiovascular health have been focus areas of the CNC and there have been workshops, walking groups, health fairs, and other community events planned, organized, and staffed by the Nurse Scholars. A lot has been accomplished in the inaugural year of the Promise Zone Community Nurse Corps. The CNC is always evolving to meet the needs of the collaborative partners. Considering the fact that agency partners do not pay any fees to have the CNC nurses assigned to their agency, it is a win-win-win for all concerned. But ultimately, it is the enhanced services and access to information that residents of the Promise Zone receive as a result of the joint efforts between health agency partners, the CNC, and the Promise Zone, that makes this model such a success and will impact the health status of the Promise Zone communities. Hopefully, the Promise Zone CNC will serve as the model for other Promise Zones - and other under- served communities throughout the US will benefit from the model started in Sacramento’s Promise Zone. To learn more about the Community Nursing Corps click here.