While many University of Virginia undergraduates head home for the summer, a small but active group of nursing students have stuck around to lend a hand at local health fairs practicing their assessment skills, sharing their sun safety knowledge and even speaking a little Spanish.
During the summer, nursing students’ clinical placements are shorter, and the cohort of students smaller, two factors that create gaps in UVA Nursing’s presence at many community sites – in stark contrast to nursing students’ ubiquity from September to April, when they are immersed in larger numbers at a variety of practice settings during their clinical rotations, said associate professor Camille Burnett, the academic director of community engagement and partnership at the School of Nursing.
The creation of more summertime opportunities in the community, Burnett said, responds to the community’s desire for more continuity of health services, health care providers and an expanded presence of UVA nursing students.
“We’re committed to consistent engagement and partnership within the community throughout the entire year,” Burnett said, “and while it’s a challenge for students to balance their summertime between family, vacation and work, we still want them to have the opportunity to remain engaged while continuing to provide much needed public health nursing care.”
Among the group fulfilling that need were a trio of students who, in mid-June, offered information about sun safety at the Southwood Community Center in Albemarle County. There, they met with a group of largely Latino residents, many of whom work in jobs with high sun exposure such as construction, landscaping and agricultural work.
For rising third-year nursing student Esha Rawat, it was a chance to hone her nursing skills, and learn a bit more about her Charlottesville neighbors, too.
“Not only were the people there kind and welcoming, but I also felt like I made a little bit of an impact on their day,” said Rawat, of Ashburn, “whether it was just reminding them the importance of wearing sunscreen or giving them little packets of sunscreen to apply on their skin.”
Olivia Conn, a master’s student in the Nursing School’s Clinical Nurse Leader program, agreed.
“For the longest time, I’ve been the ‘student,’ but at Southwood, I was the ‘teacher,’” said Conn, a native of Woodbine, Maryland. And while residents had a “wide range of knowledge about the benefits of sunscreen, there was a knowledge gap about how many times one should re-apply sunscreen throughout the day in relation to the SPF number.”
Although teaching the importance of sun protection is nothing new, it remains a particularly pertinent topic for individuals with darker complexions, who often forgo sun protection because of the perception that they don’t burn, or that they have sufficient protection from having more melanin in their skin. However, the ultraviolet radiation associated with skin cancer affects everyone, Burnett said.
Three additional events will focus on sun safety:
• July 28 at the African-American Cultural Festival, Washington Park (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
• Aug. 4 at the Westhaven Community Day event (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
• Aug. 18 at the health fair at Southwood focused on back-to-school.
Emerson Aviles, the Nursing School’s senior administrative coordinator for inclusion, diversity and excellence achievement, is spearheading the coordination of students, volunteers and resources for the summer health fairs. He is seeking donations of new sun hats (baseball-style, for both children and adults) and sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF for distribution at these events. (The UVA School of Nursing’s Class of 1966 donated funding for sunscreen and hats for the first health fair in June.)
Nursing alumni and students interested in participating as volunteers at one of the forthcoming health fairs may contact Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-924-1689.