Fairfield University nursing student projects address array of health concerns

Image: Nursing studentResearch endeavors are an important part of a Fairfield University School of Nursing student's education, and this year several beneficial projects addressing lead paint, breastfeeding, and patient care were featured in the Research and Creative Accomplishments Symposium at Fairfield.

Jennifer Delsole '13, of East Haven, Conn., studied the value of a lead poison prevention program for preschoolers in Bridgeport, Conn. Like many urban areas, it's a city where lead paint was widely used on wood frame homes and apartments before 1972 and is still present in some residences, as well as in the soil.

"Homes that used lead paint years ago continue to pose a risk for children today," said Delsole, a Corrigan Scholar, mentored by faculty Eileen O'Shea and Tess Longhi. "As the lead paint begins to deteriorate, the contaminated lead dust can be inhaled."

Lead paint is still present in many low-income homes, and lead poisoning can result in developmental delays and damage to the brain and central nervous system. "It ultimately decreases a person's function for the rest of his or her life, marked by learning and behavioral problems," emphasized Delsole at the symposium that was sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs.

With the help of a puppet named, 'Mr. Lead Spot,' she and her nursing classmates went into elementary schools in Bridgeport as part of a service-learning course, 'Nursing of Children and Family.' Before and after performing a 20-minute interactive education session, the Fairfield students studied the difference in 195 preschool children's knowledge about lead paint. Thanks to the outreach, statistically significant results suggested that this intervention considerably improved the preschooler's knowledge concerning lead poisoning prevention.

Kimberly Reda '13, of Holmdel, N.J., rotated on the maternal child health floor of Stamford Hospital, and learned how hospitals are very concerned with becoming 'baby friendly.' The Baby Friendly Initiative is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to promote the value of breastfeeding and the emotional mother-baby bonding that results.

Reda observed at an area hospital that many of the mothers chose formula feeding over breastfeeding. "I didn't know how much breastfeeding a baby boosts the immune system in so many ways formula did not," said Reda, who was mentored by faculty member Valerie Madaffari, DNP, APRN. "Studies show that breastfeeding reduces the risk of adult obesity and the onset of Type II Diabetes, for example."

Reda then embarked on creating a pamphlet for the hospital to share with the parents of newborns about how breastfeeding optimizes a mother and baby's health. It touts how studies show that breastfed children have fewer and less serious illnesses, and that breastfed babies are shown to have higher IQ scores. For new moms, the practice decreases the risk of certain cancers and helps one return to pre-birth weight.

"I am hoping my project will help mothers in their decision to breastfeed their children," she said. "It's a very important decision."

While rotating at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Courtney Onofrio '13, of Hopkinton, Mass., studied implementing a teaching tool for nurses working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In the ICU, nurses may administer neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBAs) to paralyze patients in order to facilitate their care. "Sometimes what the body is doing is not helping the patient," said Onofrio '13, whose mentor was Sheila Iacono, MSN, RN. "By paralyzing the patient, we can help them."

To evaluate the effects of NMBAs, nurses use specific assessment tools such as 'Train of Four Assessment' and 'Bispectral Index Monitoring' to determine the patient's level of paralysis and degree of sedation. Ultimately, the two tools help assess a patient's pain level, anxiety, and any agitation because the patient can't communicate these in typical ways due to the effects of the paralytics. They are crucial to patient care and outcomes.

Ultimately, this project helped re-educate ICU nurses and presented them with a reference sheet to use on the unit that highlights important aspects of the assessment tools, such as necessary supplies, the location of equipment, and procedural components.

"This tool helps ICU nurses to be competent in assessment measures to ensure optimal care," noted Onofrio, who did the project for 'Transition: Professional Nursing Practice,' a clinical rotation course that provides students like herself and Reda with opportunities to begin the transition from the classroom to professional nursing practice.


Image: Fairfield University School of Nursing students presented a lead poison prevention program to preschoolers in Bridgeport, Conn.

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

Posted on May 10, 2013

Vol. 45, No. 283

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