Welcoming Newcomers, Strengthening Families

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By Laine Zizka

TCU Nursing students presenting a public health project poster

Undergraduate nursing students Madison DiGesualdo and Joshua Clift stand with their poster during the public health nursing capstone presentations in the Annie Richardson Bass Building Nov. 13, 2018. Senior nursing students spent a semester working with faculty on local public health projects that benefit the local community.

 

The atrium of the Bass Building buzzed with raucous chatter as students and faculty weaved in and out between large bulletin boards filled with detailed research, some stopping to listen intently to presenters.

“Public health nursing is kind of one of those specialties that is invisible,” said Gina Alexander, an associate professor of nursing at TCU Nursing. “Sometimes people say, unless something goes wrong in public health, you just don’t see what’s happening.”

As a capstone experience to TCU’s bachelor of science in nursing program, students create a public health project, partnering with other students and local communities to make it happen. Continuing projects include the Anderson Park Trail and addressing Tarrant County infant mortality.

“It’s kind of a culminating project in the sense that they’re learning these new concepts of public health which is all about prevention, health promotion, and education,” Alexander said. “They’re merging that new knowledge with the knowledge of teamwork, collaboration, working together, management and leadership.”

One group of students focused their project on creating an integration program for the large population of immigrant families in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area in central DFW. They started small, inviting families from a local church and after-school program to a luncheon.

“Talking with [the families] and learning about their experiences … [we] gathered more stories … about what they liked when they came over here, what their challenges were and what they wished they had,” said senior Madison DiGesualdo.

The students admitted it was very eye-opening to see what the families perceived as their needs. Individuals struggled with everything from how to get a driver’s license to how to make their college degree applicable in the United States.

Much of the students’ research revolved around finding the most beneficial and efficient way to integrate families.

“We identified that the families that are newer need the program,” said senior Joshua Clift, “and the families that have been here and have gotten on their feet are willing to help.”

So their self-sufficient project was born, pairing experienced immigrant families with newer ones in hopes of imparting knowledge and making the transition easier every time.

“It’s very rewarding and fulfilling to see them at this point really putting pieces together. They didn’t realize people would find it so valuable,” said Alexander. “[This] makes public health nursing, which is typically invisible, more visible [and] palpable.”

Beyond the publicity for public health nursing, projects like these serve as a galvanizing force in the Fort Worth community.

“A lot of the families come here and feel isolated and like no one understands [their] needs,” Clift said. “[My favorite part is] going in there and letting that community know that there is outside help for them. They’re not alone.”