CCSU nursing professors win state service award

August 28, 2014

CCSU nursing professors win state service award

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 10:39 PM EDT


NEW BRITAIN — Professors Stacy Christensen & Jill Espelin of the CCSU Department of Nursing received the Connecticut State Higher Education Community Service Award for their work with a free, student staffed health clinic in New Britain. The award allows Connecticut institutions of higher education to recognize outstanding community service contributions by faculty, students, staff, and student groups.

For the past three years the clinic has provided free wellness screening & health education services to New Britain residents. Christensen, an ARPN specializes in community health, said the clinic came about because nursing faculty was “looking to reach out to the New Britain community.” It started with outreach in homeless shelters, made possible by help from a grant. Later, the clinic transitioned to a storefront in downtown New Britain and became a permanent presence in the community. During the fall and spring semesters it runs once a week for four hours. Since moving to their new location, they have seen 218 patients for a total of 308 visits. The clinic is a weekly anchor for the space, known as Community Central, which is used for many community enrichment projects.

The clinic is an opportunity for CCSU to give back to the community and for nursing students to get a valuable experience that enriches their education. Christensen has found that students greatly value their time at the clinic. She has students keep a reflective journal. In one such journal a student said “it [was] like everything we talked about in class came to life after this experience.” Another student reported the clinic “was really an eye opener of how less fortunate so many people are. And it is really going to make me think twice the next time I’m complaining about wanting something I really don’t need.”

Nursing students also serve as mentors to students at New Britain High School Health Academy. One or two high school students are matched up with a senior nursing student. The high schoolers are introduced to key concepts for health careers like how to counsel a patient in terminology they can understand. “It’s important the high school student sees the role of the nurse as educator. It’s like a job shadow,” said Christensen.

The clinic provides screening and wellness services like diabetes testing, weight loss counseling, cholesterol screening, and more. They also do a toiletries drive in order to provide toiletries to patients. They get apples and water donated to provide healthy refreshments. They also give out foot soaks and clean socks.

Most of all, the clinic is devoted to providing a positive, non-judgmental space. “I want [patients] to feel like they are in a trusting environment. I want them to feel respected and that question they may have is an important question,” said Christensen.