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Nursing students put skills to practice in community organizations

For immediate release
Date:    December 21, 2011
Contact:   Ashley Wiggin- Communications and Marketing Officer,, 206-221-2456

Nurs 420 studentsNurs 420 studentsSEATTLE- The buzz of chatter filled the Health Sciences Lobby in early December, with School of Nursing students proudly sharing their experiences working in community agencies with colleagues, teachers and friends. Their instructor, Assistant Professor Betty Bekemeier, was joined by other faculty, staff, and guests--all asking questions of students and exploring the room filled with posters and flyers to learn about what each student group had accomplished in their quarter of service.

At the December 7 open house, students delivered their final assessments of the project outcomes and shared with colleagues and friends how they were able to put their nursing education into practice with these community agencies. All of the projects investigated public health concerns, such as obesity and healthy eating, disease prevention and elder care, and other issues such as promoting healthy pregnancies in low-income women and cultural competency in healthcare.

 “Everybody—students and faculty alike--seems to really enjoy this end-of-the-quarter Poster Symposium,” said Bekemeier. “It’s a time when we can all see what each other has done over the quarter and what our course content really ‘looks like’ when applied to practice.”

The class, Promoting Community and Public Health (NURS 420) was made up of 70 students in the Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Accelerated BSN programs. The agencies were identified by community health faculty in the School of Nursing.  Clinical Instructors and students were assigned to clinical groups and the agencies associated with each group and instructor. The class was split into 10 groups and each was assigned an agency to work with and led by a clinical instructor from the School of Nursing. The students visited their community agency weekly, working with community groups such as Full-Life Care, Work-it-Out School and local Native American tribes to put some of the skills learned in their community health course and from their clinical instructors into practice with hands-on experiences.

“This was a very unique experience in cultural immersion,” said Katie Stiver, who was working on a project with a Native American tribe on the Olympic Peninsula to improve health-seeking behaviors. Their team of five students traveled to the Peninsula once a week to work with the Human Services Office and Early Learning Center. Their project focused on assisting with vision, height and weights screenings, and develop a hand-washing presentation with interactive components. The group concluded that their screenings with children and work with the elderly populations were important to improving the overall health of the tribe.

Jo Saltmarsh and Janet Bowen, both BSN students, participated in a campaign to advocate for Maternity Support Services, a state program that provides prenatal care and support to Medicaid- eligible women, who often struggle with premature deliveries and other health concerns. The pair traveled around campus and to Olympia, advocating for retention of the program, which is one of the programs currently under consideration for elimination in state budget cuts. As part of their campaign, the team created the “onesie” slogan, advocating for each baby to be born big enough to fit in a newborn onesie.

Nurse 420 student Janet BowenNurse 420 student Janet Bowen“The program can help save a great deal of money in the long run,” said Saltmarsh. “Investing in healthy babies now saves $5.3 million in hospital costs later on.”

Each student team spent hours engaging with community agencies to improve overall health outcomes for clientele. Everything from handwashing practices to obesity and exercise in older adults are public health concerns and ones that these students are working to address through their course content.


“I’m always thrilled by the degree to which students are inspired by what they experience, by the complex community challenges they encounter, and by what they have learned in the agencies and communities they have worked with,” said Bekemeier. “Their posters, stories, and excitement say so much.”

You can read more about the posters featured in the symposium here. Be sure to check out photos from the symposium on the School of Nursing’s Facebook Page.

Photo captions:

Photo 1: Left to right, ABSN students Sarah Jane Czerwinski, Kathryn Stiver, Jennifer Hwang, Jourdan Bates, and Christa McCormick

Photo 2: Janet Bowen, BSN student with her poster


The University of Washington School of Nursing is consistently the nation’s No. 1-ranked nursing school, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked No. 3 in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the UW School of Nursing is a national and international leader in improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school addresses society’s most pressing challenges in health care through innovative teaching, award winning research and community service. For more information, visit