Maritza Zuniga, a nursing student in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program at The University of Texas-Pan American, found inspiration to pursue a career in nursing after knowing her grandfather was diagnosed with a chronic illness.
"I decided to become a nurse because of my grandfather," Zuniga said. "He was diagnosed with diabetes and I felt like I could help him, so I figured with this program I could learn how to help and assist people."
On Oct. 15, the BSN program at UTPA sponsored and hosted its "¡Fiesta de Salud! Together We Can Make a Difference" community health fair at Ponce Memorial Park in Edinburg. More than 100 students from the BSN program participated in the event.
"This is our 10th annual health fair and we want our students to understand the concept of giving back to the community," said Dr. Juana Cantu-Cabrera, assistant professor of nursing at UTPA. "We remind our students to go out and make a difference and address these health issues at our health fair so our communities can have healthier lives."
Students in the BSN program conducted community health assessments on residents from colonias surrounding the Doolittle Road area in Edinburg beginning on Sept.13. For several days they visited with families, residents, and business owners, and asked them what they thought their community's needs were and who their health providers are.
"Our students did a walking survey during which they checked the physical environments, cultural makeup, recreational, educational, health care, safety, political, economic and transportation aspects of several neighborhoods in this area," said Dr. Sandy Sánchez, BSN coordinator.
The data they collected was used to determine the community's needs in order to plan an appropriate health fair to meet those specific needs, Sánchez said.
"This fair helps me see other aspects of nursing because when you're working at a hospital you treat a patient and they go home and you don't think what their home life is like," said Cristina Herrera, BSN student. "This health fair helps us take into consideration their home life, whether they do or don't have insurance, or what kind of income level they are at."
About 32 teaching groups, at individual booths, gave three-minute presentations on health and wellness topics such as men's and women's health, child safety, body mechanics, diabetes, flu shots, blood pressure, exercise, and healthy eating.
"A big part of this health fair is about teaching and education and I believe our community will benefit from our fair," said Anali Arevalo, BSN student. "Our program teaches us that client teaching and community collaboration are vital in the nursing field."
The BSN program plans to host another health fair in 2012.
"Our health fairs have evolved into something so meaningful to the BSN program at UTPA," Cantu-Cabrera said. "This event has grown to where even the previous classes are participating because these students want to give back to the community so the need for health fairs such as ours are important for everyone."
For more information, contact the UTPA BSN program at (956) 665-3495.