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Nursing students assist with lead testing for elementary children

February 19, 2016
KOKOMO, Ind. — Nursing students at Indiana University Kokomo immersed themselves into the local community by assisting with screening more than 300 elementary children for lead after slightly elevated levels of the element were detected in the school’s water.

About 25 students and faculty volunteered to help the Howard County Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health with the precautionary testing at Eastern Elementary School.

“This is such a great experience, to see community health in action,” said Amanda Dillon, a senior from Logansport. “This is what collaborative care is all about. It’s amazing to see all these different agencies working together.”

Dillon greeted a nervous-looking boy, taking his hand and allowing him to sit on her lap. She talked to him quietly as the nurse sitting across from them rubbed his hand and fingers, and then administered a quick pinprick, drawing blood.

She continued talking to him as the nurse squeezed tiny drops of blood into circles on a small card, encouraging him as the sample was completed.

“Have you done this before? You’re awesome!” she said, drawing a smile. Dillon wrapped a small piece of gauze around his finger for a minute or two before putting a bandage on it, and offering him a sucker.

Students served as “holders and consolers” for the more nervous among the children being tested, according to Joyce Hollingsworth, clinical assistant professor of nursing.

“We have stickers, and suckers, and sparkly band aids,” Hollingsworth said. “That’s all you need.”

Karen Long, public health nurse from the county health department, estimated 330 children would be screened at the elementary school and 280 at the middle and high school Friday.

“We could not do this with just our staff,” she said. “We appreciate the assistance from IU Kokomo’s students and faculty, helping us meet this need. They’re doing a tremendous job.”

The nursing students collected children from their classrooms, helped them wash their hands, directed them to a nurse who would administer the screening, and then walked them back to their teachers. Others entered data into computers, to facilitate processing the tests.

Hollingsworth said she did not hesitate when the health department asked if she could bring students to help.

“They are one of our great partners,” she said. “We are glad to help, and this is a real-life community health experience for these students.”

She noted that Kelly Darling, Eastern Elementary’s school nurse, is an IU Kokomo School of Nursing alumna.

Samantha Mauk, a nursing student from Marion, worked alongside Bridget Whitmore, assistant dean of the School of Nursing, as she provided screenings. Some children chose to sit next to her, while others wanted to sit on her lap and have an arm wrapped around them, during the testing.

Mauk told the kids they were going to color with their crayons, or fingers, identifying the finger to be pricked as “the red crayon,” and helped them fill the circle on the testing card.

“The kids are quite intrigued by the idea of coloring with their fingers,” she said. “Once the prick is over, they’re fine. This has been a great community nursing experience.”

County health department officials consider the risk of significant lead exposure in the corporation to be low, stating that most significant lead exposure involves lead paint or lead dust in the home. It offered the tests free to alleviate parent concerns.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 02/19/2016