Engaged civic learning has significant, positive impact on nursing students' confidence, social skills, appreciation of diversity, and ability to cultivate relationships. Students become better equipped to recognize the causes and innovative solutions to complex social problems, while they develop critical workplace skills and practice their voices as professional nurses. They become effective change agents by participating in direct service, capacity building, advocacy, and research.
Immersed in the community
We believe access to care is a basic right –not a privilege– and a person's zip code should not determine the quality of their health. Today, there is a growing movement of committed nurses who bring healing and health equity to underserved populations all across the country and the world. Our faculty and students are immersed in the community – locally, across the region, and around the globe through service learning journeys and scholar exchange programs.
A few examples of our local civic engagement efforts include:
Public Health Workforce Development
Marie O’Toole, senior associate dean of academic and faculty affairs, and Jeff Brenner, MD, of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers are working to ensure student nurses develop measurable knowledge and skills in population health and to address workforce development in public health nursing. Together, they built a new curriculum that exposes first-year students to community-based care, social determinants of health, complex care, and health system transformation. Deborah Riddick, JD, RN, who leads the Camden Coalition’s community engagement team, teaches Health Promotion in a Multicultural Society, a class taken by accelerated nursing students at the School of Nursing–Camden.
Healthy Head Start
Assistant professor Kathy Prihoda engages her nursing students with the community through a special focus on at-risk, pre-school populations. Prihoda and her students deliver health outreach, screenings, and education through partnerships with Head Start programs led by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton, N.J. and the Center for Family Services, which provides Head Start programs throughout the city of Camden and across Camden County, N.J.
Delivering Primary Care to Homeless Persons
Each week, professors and nurse practitioners Kathy Jackson and Nancy Pontes help deliver patient-centered, primary care to homeless persons as part of the Project H.O.P.E. at Cathedral Kitchen effort in Camden. This innovative faculty-practice partnership expands the school's public health reach, brings healing to people in need, and inspires our learning community to address complex social problems. Project H.O.P.E. has assisted more than 11,000 homeless persons in their journey to permanent housing and self-sufficiency, and is unique in that it is the only provider of medical services specifically for the homeless in Camden County and one of five Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) homeless projects in New Jersey.
Food Deserts, Nutrition, and Obesity
Camden is considered a food desert by the USDA because just one supermarket serves the city of 77,000 where two out of every five people live below the poverty level. A few years agao, professor Kathy Jackson established a partnership with New Jersey Farmers Against Hunger and the Housing Authority of the City of Camden to make fresh produce affordable and accessible across neighborhoods in Camden, with the goal of addressing poor nutrition caused by widespread poverty.
Improving Quality of Life in Camden
Get Healthy Camden, a project of the Camden Collaborative Initiative, is a consortium of governmental, non-profit, private, and community-based agencies that plan and implement innovative strategies to improve the quality of life in Camden. A recent initiative includes connecting common interests and goals around the New Jersey Department of Health's State Health Assessment Data (NJSHAD) System, which provides access to public health datasets, statistics, and information on the health status of New Jerseyans. Other efforts, such as Connect the Lots, activate vacant spaces to offer cultural, artistic, and recreational activity in a safe and welcoming environment for people living in Camden. Marie O’Toole, senior associate dean of academic and faculty affairs, serves on the Executive Committee of Get Healthy Camden.
Young Mothers and Children
Wanda Williams, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing–Camden, and her students work with young mothers enrolled in the TIP program – a federally-funded initiative to improve parenting skills and offer welfare-to-work support to expectant women and new mothers. Dr. Williams' research interests include using a faith-based approach to offer health behavior interventions for African American girls and women.
Our Neighbors in Need
Patricia Suplee, an associate professor and nationally-recognized expert in maternal health and nursing education, has devoted her career to helping our neighbors in need across the City of Camden. Suplee and her junior year students regularly partner with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to deliver health education, screenings, and hot meals to local parishioners, neighbors, and homeless people throughout the year.
Having fun while doing good
More than ever, nurses are using their influence and knowledge to advance the frontlines of heath care practice, policy, and patient outcomes. Our Rutgers–Camden Student Nurses' Association (SNA) is a local, student-run organization that encourages students to expand their roles as nurse leaders and patient advocates by working to make a positive impact on people who live in Camden, N.J. The SNA supports classmates and promotes health equity by forging partnerships with social enterprises such as soup kitchens, places of worship, and community groups in the City of Camden and beyond.