Kent State Nursing Students Empower Middle Schoolers to Take Charge of Their Health
Alliance Middle School students are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices after attending a health and wellness fair presented by a group of senior nursing students from Kent State University’s College of Nursing. The adolescents rotated through four exhibits, which focused on positive self-talk, mindfulness and stress management, the importance of sleep, and anti-bullying and building healthy relationships.
Prior to the creation of the health and wellness fair, the eight nursing students conducted a nursing assessment of Alliance, Ohio. According to the assessment, when comparing Alliance to other cities in Ohio, it experiences increased levels of poverty, domestic violence and suicide. Using these results, the group developed a nursing diagnosis under the leadership and supervision of Pamela Rafferty-Semon, M.S.N., Nursing Education, RN. The diagnosis stated a knowledge deficit and lack of accessibility and awareness of health promotion resources and programs within the community has led to adolescents and their caregivers making poor health-related decisions.
“Many people don’t receive the help they need,” says Anna Hunker, a nursing student at Kent State. “By going to the school, we were able to get the students thinking and talking about these issues early on and hopefully prevent them from developing [problems] later in their lives.”
Short lessons allowed the middle school students to talk about the stressors they are currently encountering. Many listed school, grades, family, friends and social media as the things that cause them to lose sleep and feel discouraged each day. The nursing students shared techniques for handling these stressful situations in positive and uplifting ways.
“We wanted to show the students there were easy tools they could use now to reduce their stress,” Hunker says. “At our station, we taught simple yoga stretches for relaxation and had the students sample lavender, tea tree or eucalyptus essential oil infused lotion, which can assist in promoting better sleep, relieving muscle or joint pain, reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system.”
The activities, in combination with the lessons, allowed the students to better comprehend the topics being discussed. At the end of the health fair, each student was able to identify positive ways to reduce stress and increase mindfulness, could transform negative thoughts into positive statements, understood the importance of maintaining a regular sleep schedule and learned to identify different types of bullying and what actions to take in those situations.
“We showed how each area overlapped by telling the students if we do not manage our stress, that can lead to a sleepless night,” says senior nursing student Katelyn Pittman. “Having no sleep may cause us to do poorly in school and may encourage us to engage in negative self-talk. By including a message of stress prevention at each station, we reinforced all of the topics the students were learning about.”