Nursing Students Provide Free Physicals to Help Camden Children Participate in Sports Programs

By Jeanne Leong

Participating is sports is vital to the well-being of children and adolescents, especially during the pandemic. Young boys and girls need physical activity after spending long hours at home in remote learning classes.

In Camden, children are being cleared to play in school and club sports thanks to free physical exams being provided by Rutgers University‒Camden doctor of nursing practice students.

The Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden students also conduct physicals required by the Camden school district for all children who attend city schools.

It’s all part of the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden’s commitment to strengthening community health in Camden and across southern New Jersey. “Health care can no longer be limited to hospitals and doctors’ offices,” says Rutgers–Camden Nursing Dean Donna Nickitas. “If we want for our families and our communities to be healthy, we need to bring services into the neighborhoods, especially during situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We launched the Rutgers–Camden Health Clinic to do just that while also giving our nursing students the opportunity to learn their profession by working alongside Rutgers faculty. We’re grateful to The Michaels Organization for providing the support that allowed us to provide these critically needed services in Camden free of charge, in partnership with the Housing Authority.”

Research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found negative impacts of the pandemic on the mental health of children and adolescents after schools closed and activities such as sports were suspended. The CDC reported that emergency department visits related to mental health increased 24% for children aged 5 to 11 and 31% for children aged 12 to 17 from April through October this year, compared with the same period in 2019.

At the Rutgers‒Camden health center at the Housing Authority of Camden’s Branches at Centerville complex, William Paynter, a doctor of nursing practice student, checked children’s blood pressure, vision, and heart and respiratory rates. “I’m happy to play a small part in helping the children of Camden to play sports,” says Paynter, of Willingboro.

DNP student William Paynter, Nyla, Zuri, and Sage Wyatt, and DNP student Melanie Ransom

DNP student William Paynter, Nyla, Zuri, and Sage Wyatt, and DNP student Melanie Ransom

If Paynter finds cardiac issues, he notifies the patient’s parent and suggests a visit to a cardiologist. In patients diagnosed with asthma, he checks to make sure that it is under control and that the patients know how to use their inhalers before clearing them for sports.

“I am grateful for the service and it’s convenient, too,” says Alonna Wyatt, of Camden, who brought her three daughters to the health center for annual physical examinations mandated by their schools.

Seven-year-old Sage and five-year-old Zuri plan to participate in cheerleading. “They need to stay active and exercise to burn energy off,” says Wyatt.

Four-year-old Nyla is too young to participate in the activities, but may join her sisters next year.

The health center offers an educational opportunity for Rutgers–Camden nursing students to assist residents in the surrounding community.

“Rutgers students who have this experience can see the health disparities that the Camden community faces,” says Kathie Prihoda, a Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden associate professor and a pediatric nurse practitioner, who oversees the doctor of nursing practice students who conduct the physicals. “They get to identify ways to make immediate changes with services that are needed, and access to care.”

Since the program began in the fall of 2019, Rutgers–Camden nursing students have performed physicals to help more than 100 Camden children.

Posted in: Community Outreach

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