Nursing Notes

November 16, 2009

Nursing Team Uses Poetry, Plays to Improve Public Health

Filed under: Nursing,Uncategorized — Shirley @ 5:41 am
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Written by Valparaiso University Relations
A team of Valparaiso University nursing students and their professor will discuss how they are using poetry and socio-drama for public health education in Central America at a national health conference Wednesday, Nov. 11. The team will present research conducted in a rural Nicaraguan village at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, a gathering of approximately 10,000 health educators, nurses and doctors in Philadelphia.Several students and Dr. Amy Cory, assistant professor of nursing, have been working with the village as part of a multi-year partnership to improve health inequities related to gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
Participating in the project and presenting the research are seniors Tricia Erdmann of Racine, Wis., and Katherine Thomas of Evanston, Ill.; junior Kerstin Kost of Avon; and 2009 graduate Rebekah Schmerber of Elgin, Ill.“By working towards the health goals of the community, we have been able to build a project that will not only be sustainable, but beneficial to the community,” Erdmann said. “Developing a partnership with the community has helped us truly see health-related issues through the eyes of its people in their environment.”


The presentations will focus on results from the community health assessment, a community health forum the team held in the village and their use of poetry and socio-drama plays to spread important health messages.

“Poetry and socio-dramas are a big part of the culture in Central America, and a definite benefit of this type of research is that we can learn from the community,” Thomas said. “That forum really showed the power of the community-driven process.”

The project – “Beyond the Volcanoes: A Community Partnership for Health in Rural Nicaragua” – started in August 2007, when the University was approached by an alumnus with an interest in humanitarian medical work in Central America.

Rather than going to the village and addressing only immediate medical needs of its people, Valpo’s nursing team decided to undertake a longer-term project referred to as community-based participatory action research. It’s a process that involves six phases: partnership, assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation and dissemination.

Dr. Cory says as the research now enters the evalution phase, similarities are emerging between the health issues in the village and those in the United States.

“We have learned more from our community partners than they could ever learn from us,” said Dr. Cory.  “We are finding more similarities than differences between the people, culture and communities in rural Nicaragua and the U.S.

The time that the team devoted to talking to community members about what health improvements would make the biggest impact on their quality of life has paid off, the students say. While the team initially thought that clean water would turn out to be the village’s primary health issue, respiratory issues were identified as the biggest problem.

Not only has the research identified the primary health need, it also has validated the team’s community approach.

“Our research teaches us that we (researchers) need to work with communities rather than for communities,” Dr. Cory said. “Community-based participatory action research such as this is facilitated through partnerships with communities where the community members take the lead in assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating their own health-related goals.”

Dr. Cory said it’s extremely rare for undergraduate nursing students to present research at the conference, but Valpo’s nursing students attracted so much interest that the organization is considering expansion of its mentoring/scholarship program for master’s and Ph.D. students so that undergraduate students also are eligible.

The team plans to return to Nicaragua for the evaluation phase later this month and to complete their work with the community in March 2010.

More information about Valpo’s College of Nursing can be found at


This is an interesting article about what can be accomplished with your nursing degree.  These student nurses have definitely been “thinking outside the box” and deserve recognition for their work.

It seems that they again reinforce the idea that we, as nurses, need to let our patients lead us to what needs they have.  We should not be so quick to judge or to decide what they need.  It’s really all about perception and that is a very individual thing.

Frequently, we nurses think that we are providing the best care possible, yet we may be missing the mark by not really talking with our patients–“Yes, a bed bath would make me feel better, but talking about my abusive husband and doing problem solving would be better.”

There is a lesson here for all nurses, both the new and the experienced.  I hope you read the article and see the point.  Let me know what you think.

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