Wash, wash, wash your hands: Nursing students teach preschoolers how to keep clean



Image: HandwashingSean Young, a student in Fairfield University's nurse anesthesia doctoral program, crouched down at eye level with 3-year-old Eleni Braga at a sink in the campus' Early Learning Center (ELC).

"Is it fun to make bubbles?" he asked, as the little girl busily scrubbed her hands with soap. "It is, right?"

"Yeah!" said Eleni, smiling at her handiwork. "My mommy always makes me wash my hands every morning and night!"

Young and his fellow classmates - Amy Li, Phil Werman, and Nancy Wallick - visited the ELC in October to teach toddlers and preschoolers how to wash their hands properly to help prevent the spread of germs at home and in their colorful classrooms. Their visit was part of the community outreach component to their doctor of nursing practice program.

The students are taking "Epidemiology and Health Promotion" - a service learning course. Housed within the University's Center for Faith and Public Life, the service learning program facilitates connections between focused academic learning, and meaningful and appropriate service that addresses needs identified by and with communities.

Assistant Professor Teresa Deshefy-Longhi, DNS, RN, said it's ultimately about teaching nurses that they can play a vital role in the community. "By partnering with community agencies and their members, they can work together to determine a relevant health problem," she said. "The nurses can then use their expertise to deliver an educational intervention tailored to that community's issues, being mindful of the overall goal to promote healthy lifestyle choices for all age groups."

To keep their message memorable, the nursing students brought along the "Happy Hands House," a decorated box equipped with a black light and a viewing window. Students had the children rub lotion on their hands to simulate germs that they could see under the black light. After they washed their hands, the purple "germs" magically disappeared. In addition, the students taught the children the "Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands" song - set to the melody of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" - to help them remember their lesson.

They also posted a photo of proper hand washing technique at toddler eye level on the bathroom door. The students will visit the children again in a few weeks to see if they remember what they were taught. Their final report will include the entire experience, which was organized by Barbara Welles-Nyström, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation and the University liaison to the ELC.

"We're here to promote good health and prevention of disease," Young said. "And this is the type of place where you're going to spread things the most, so it's good to teach them early."

Image: Sean Young, a student in Fairfield University's nurse anesthesia doctoral program, and 3-year-old Eleni Braga in the campus' Early Learning Center (ELC). School of Nursing students visited the ELC as part of the community outreach component to their doctor of nursing practice program.

By Meredith Guinness & Meg McCaffrey
Assistant Directors, Media Relations

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 24, 2011

Vol. 44, No. 93