Developing students who, as citizens of the world, value civic engagement is an important part of UB’s School of Nursing curriculum. Service learning is an established pedagogy which engages students in civic endeavors, often as they relate to social determinants of health. When students participate in building homes for needy families, they are able to make connections between safe, affordable housing and health outcomes, as well as providing stability in communities suffering from poverty and homelessness. Service learning participation gives students opportunities to live the core values of nursing: altruism, caring, social justice and respect for all, and it provides benefits such as improving grades, retention and degree completion, aids further educational aspirations and promotes civic responsibility and leadership.
UB senior nursing students provided 2,048 hours of service learning to the community through volunteer activities with agencies such as Habitat for Humanity, Buffalo City Mission, West Side Ministries, Catholic Central Helping Hands Food Pantry and Food Bank of Western New York, to name a few.
One such experience took place at Project Naomi, a small nonprofit organization that assists low-income, disable and senior residents with property maintenance in the Buffalo area. Members of the volunteer team not only provided manual labor, but also helped to create an online fundraising tool for Project Naomi.
“The director was very appreciative of the fundraising online tool. It goes to show you, nurses are born leaders!” said Meg Montgomery, a 2013 graduate of the accelerated baccalaureate nursing program. “Being a part of this service learning project provided insight to some of the issues our patients deal with outside of a medical facility. At first glance, property maintenance may seem far removed from the role of a nurse, but this is where the decline of a community begins and and some associated health risks begin to emerge.”
Other nursing students headed to Nicaragua last December to volunteer in hospitals, clinics and even give home-care visits. Tijen Arslan, Christine Geiger, Becky Henning, Michelle Klimpt, Kelly Smith and Laura Tirabassi paid their own way to join International Service Learning, a nonprofit group that partners students with professional teams to provide health care to underserved populations. Students worked in groups, took histories, performed assessments and physicals, and even helped deliver babies.
Dr. Susan Grinslade, undergraduate department chair and clinical professor for the School of Nursing states, “The knowledge gained by students moving out of the classroom and into the community is invaluable to their overall educational experience. Service learning experiences provide students with opportunities for professional growth as they learn to focus on the needs of their patient populations within their community environment. In their reflective journals, students have commented that it is hard to understand the concept of vulnerability when talking about it in a classroom, but when you live it with the community through service learning, it takes on a new meaning. Service learning helps students view health, risk and vulnerability through a new lens. This cognitive and affective change impacts their interactions with clients and families across all settings in a positive manner.”