More than 17 Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students at The University of Texas-Pan American organized a Health and Safety Fair for Doolittle community residents in Edinburg Saturday, April 25 to inform the locals of the available services in their area.
The fair was held as a result of a windshield survey conducted by the graduate students in the locale, which as of 2000 had a population of 2,358, as part of their end of the semester project in Nursing 6311 Rural Health in Advanced Practice Nursing, an MSN course taught at UTPA. The windshield survey consisted of assessing the neighborhood, and speaking to residents and school officials of the surrounding community. In addition, they looked into the statistical and demographic components of the area.
"As part of the course we had to assess a rural community, and in assessing the Doolittle community we found they needed some help in the areas of health, wellness and safety, so we developed the Health and Safety Fair," said Dianna Galvan, a registered nurse at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and a MSN student. "We just wanted to give the community some kind of idea of the services in health and safety and that there are people out there that can help them if they need it."
Galvan, who earned her associate degree in nursing from UTPA in 1992, said the class of 17 conducted the windshield survey by driving around and observing the Doolittle community from their vehicles as well as talking to its residents and asking them what was needed to make their neighborhood a safe and healthy environment. She said the graduate students would sometimes find themselves spending up to three hours a day surveying the area for the semester-long project.
Results from the survey, which were presented to the community during the fair, indicated that 41.1 percent of residents in the Doolittle area were below the income poverty level compared to the state statistic at 15.4 percent from 2007. In addition, they learned the family size of an average household in Doolittle was 4.3 people compared to 2.7 in the state. Also, the educational level for the population 25 years and older in the area was 32.8 percent for a high school degree and 7.4 percent for a bachelor's degree or higher. During the presentation, the graduate students shared with the audience the number of health clinics, hospitals, dental services, and state agencies available to them in a close proximity.
"From the survey we conducted I learned that a lot of people think they have it bad, but there are a lot of people who have it worse," Ramiro De Leon, a 12-year registered nurse and MSN graduate student, said. "I think holding the fair was really beneficial to the community because they lack the health care, insurance, and they don't know where to go when they are sick. I think we opened their eyes to what is available to them."
Galvan said that in addition to health concerns, the class learned the rural community was worried about street and neighborhood safety, such as speeding cars, scarcity of streetlights, and the lack of city parks for children to enjoy.
"We think that is something that needs to be explored in the future," Galvan said. Due to the time constraints we were not able to get street lights or signs for them because of political and city boundaries and the time it required, so the best thing we thought to do was bring them health care."
Dr. Janice Maville, MSN program coordinator, said the rural health project has been done every year since the MSN program began in 1994. Maville said the course focuses on the rural health care setting and how health care is disseminated and brought to rural areas that are comprised of vulnerable population groups. Through MSN studies future health care providers are given insight on how to care for populations outside of the hospital setting.
"I think it was a fantastic event and a wonderful way for students to learn about environmental and personal issues that people in the colonias face on a day-to-day basis and identify what the possible solutions can be and put them together with resources," Maville said. "They were able to make a bridge between the resources and the needs of the community. Plus, they brought the community together, which is something they do not get to do that often."
The students held the fair at Anita E. Villarreal Elementary School in Edinburg, which included participation from health care, local and community agencies - Valley Baptist Outreach Program, Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department, Driscoll Children's Quick Care, Knapp Medical Center, and many more. Approximately 100 people from the Doolittle community attended the fair.
Melinda Rodriguez, a nursing lecturer, said she hopes to expand the class to Bachelor of Science in Nursing students so they can obtain experience in rural health too. Rodriguez instructs the class along with nursing faculty members Lilia A. Fuentes and Dr. Debra Otto.
"One of the goals I try to instill in MSN students is to serve as mentors to undergraduates so that we can unite as a department," she said. "We have a wonderful university and the public needs to know as nurses we serve our community."
To learn more about the Master of Science in Nursing, visit www.utpa.edu/nursing or call 956/381-3491.