It's tough being a teen and sorting out what goes into having a good or bad relationship with friends and family members.
Teens and parents from the Famicos Foundation's Park Village Community Apartments and Historic Newton Avenue Apartments in Hough expressed a need for programs about healthy relationships from how to counter bullying to emotions in intimate relationships.
Five students in the Graduate Entry Doctor of Nursing Practice (GE DNP) Program at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University responded as part of their service-learning project in public health sequence to meet those needs.
What happens in this class project is what nursing is all about, according to Joy Naughton, GE DNP public health instructor. "In nursing, you assess the problem, diagnose it, come up with a plan, implement it and then evaluate its success. That is what we are doing this semester, but the community is our patient," Naughton said.
Beth Graham, associate director of the Famicos Foundation, welcomes the range of expertise the nursing students are bringing to the organization's community in designing this age-appropriate curriculum for Hough's youth.
"It's been a great experience," she said. "The nursing students are energizing and engaging, and we're excited about having them spend time talking to our youth."
While the university is just blocks away, for some teens it may be a world away. "This breaks down the barriers and lets students know that people from the university aren't much different from them," said Graham.
Over the course of fall semester, a GE DNP team of Kara Berg, Sue James, Ebony McNeal, Stacie Spears and Janine Stage hosted two evening programs for teens on topics ranging from good hygiene and sex education to better relationships with their parents, siblings and friends.
"It's not just what is going on with teens, but what is happening in the greater community also impacts the life of teenagers," Berg said.
To understand community impact, the group visited a number of local agencies and attended neighborhood council meetings.
In this community partnership between the nursing school and the Famicos Foundation, the teen program is the first targeted project in what is to become an ongoing collaboration to provide public health information to residents in the community. The housing community is home to 107 families, including approximately 250 children.
Spears, who worked a number of years in the Cleveland schools as a social worker and teacher, talked about the importance of this partnership in meeting the population's needs, which are constantly changing.
"The greater community creates the environment in which teens thrive or not," said Spears.
She added that new programs will always be needed as the neighborhood changes.
Sixteen teens showed up for the first program in the development's community center. After a few icebreaking exercises, the teens warmed up to an open discussion about their relationships with others, said James.
For many teens, the topic of safe sex brought on a few giggles at first.. "But then we were surprised about how willing they were to share their views and even explain it to each other," Stage said.
While the students shared, Stage noted that the teens had "oops, I didn't realize that" moments, recognizing they had been misinformed or uninformed about information related to healthy and safe relationships.
"We had to be flexible and work as a team in constant interaction with the clients," said Stage.
The students held the teens' attention for the two-hour program.
"The teens had a lot to say and many questions to ask," said McNeal. "It was great to see the parents and the center's coordinator also involved and learning along the way with all of us."
A follow-up evaluation showed the teens may still be confused about some things, but some of the overall messages about safe sex and teen pregnancy were heard.
The GE DNP students bring a breadth of professional experiences from the fields of communications, epidemiology and social work to the project. The GE DNP sequence is designed for students with undergraduate degrees in other fields. The three-phase program prepares students for their registered nursing license and master's and professional doctorate degrees.
According to Deborah Lindell, director of the GE DNP program, the service learning component takes students out of the classroom and into the community to give them an understanding of the life circumstances of many patients they may encounter in a hospital setting.
In the past, the GE DNP signed up as a team, assessed community needs and then designed a project to benefit the community. Naughton also has a group working on community health projects in University Circle.
But the Famicos project was organized in the reverse of past projects, according to Naughton.
She said Famicos approached the school to help design health-oriented programs for the residents. They learned from focus groups that residents had concerns about ground rules, appropriate behavior, emotions in relationships, and impact of domestic violence on their youths and managing reality in a world where teens are exposed to mixed messages relayed on TV and other entertainment.
"I have a soft spot in my heart for Hough," said McNeal. "It feels good to know that the kids want us there and are eager for information."
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