RWJF Grant to Help Nursing Students Improve Health Outcomes for Camden Teens

By Ed Moorhouse

Students and faculty at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden will help to improve the health and well-being of Camden teens and their families thanks to a $199,969 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation under its New Jersey Nursing Initiative.

The funding will allow Rutgers–Camden to establish a health education program at the LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden.

The New Jersey Nursing Initiative encourages educators throughout New Jersey to reshape curricula and clinical experience in order to better prepare nurses to meet the emerging demands of providing community-based care and improving population health.

Population health refers to improving health outcomes for a specific group of people. In this case, Rutgers–Camden students are targeting adolescent and pre-adolescent students at LEAP to improve sexual health by decreasing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

To achieve this, Rutgers–Camden is implementing a Teen Outreach Program (TOP), a nationally recognized evidenced-based program that will allow Rutgers–Camden nursing students to mentor LEAP students to reach three essential goals: healthy behaviors, life skills, and a sense of purpose.

“The project will allow us to focus on improving the health of Camden adolescents and their families,” says Robert Scoloveno, an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden and the principal investigator on the grant. “It’s about empowering them to make the right choices and engage in healthy practices, but it’s also about working with the community to grow a healthy, strong, and vibrant Camden.”

Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, a Rutgers University Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor and founder of the LEAP Academy University Charter School, says LEAP is excited to partner with Rutgers–Camden nursing faculty and students on the teen wellness initiative.

“This is a reciprocal engaging moment for our LEAP youngsters and the Rutgers–Camden faculty and students who together will explore important healthy choices and practices that will impact the entire family and community in our city,” Bonilla-Santiago says.

In addition to the student mentorship aspect of the program, Rutgers–Camden nursing faculty will work with LEAP faculty to help incorporate the health education model into LEAP classrooms.

“This grant supports comprehensive, population-focused health education with nursing students and faculty working alongside LEAP educators to promote LEAP students’ healthy sexual choices that can have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of the surrounding community,” says Nancy Pontes, an assistant professor of nursing at Rutgers–Camden and director of the Rutgers/LEAP Health and Wellness Center.

The new initiative allows students studying the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden to shift their focus to preventative care rather than acute care as healthcare has changed in such a way that patients are spending less time in the hospital, says Angela Kelly, a clinical professor of nursing at Rutgers–Camden and co-investigator on the grant.

“Only the sickest patients remain in the hospital, so the goal now in nursing education is to expose more students to community settings, to preventative care, and to focus more on population health and on changing the health outcomes of a set population rather than trying to improve upon a condition once illness has already occurred,” Kelly says.

The grant will allow Rutgers–Camden to integrate a population health model into its baccalaureate nursing curriculum that will teach students different aspects of community health nursing.

“The hope is that our students realize that a great deal of what nurses do actually takes place outside of the acute care setting — the hospital —and that a nurse’s role in preventative care is extremely important and can influence the health and well-being of an entire community,” she says.

Posted in: Community Outreach

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