Health Professionals & Environmental Health
Nurses are the largest group of health care professionals. They have the most contact with the public and are in the best position to apply environmental health across the settings in which they practice. However, the education of nurses in environmental health has been lacking.
A goal of the Community Outreach and Education Core is to improve the knowledge and skills of nurses by increasing the amount and quality of academic content in environmental health. The Core accomplishes this by utilizing videos and experiment modules to make environmental health tangible and applicable to nurses at all stages of development. The team works in collaboration with NIEHS staff and the Harvard School of Public Health's Environmental Health Science Center on these initiatives.
Education of Nursing Students
Concerns about the lack of environmental health subject matter or perspectives reaching nursing students or nurses seeking professional development opportunities led NIEHS to sponsor various forums addressing the issue.
Great Lakes Scholars in Environmental Health Nursing
The Core works closely with UW-Milwaukee's College of Nursing to administer a program to increase the ability for practice nurses to recognize environmental hazards and to prevent and intervene at both the individual and community levels. The program reaches all master’s students (ca. 25 per year) through an environmental health module. The readings, lectures, and class assignments focus on environmental hazards (with examples), the range of health effects produced by these hazards, how to complete an environmental health history, and how to conduct appropriate interventions and referrals. In addition, the program encourages a more in-depth focus on environmental health by mentoring individual students. GLS awardees focus their master's projects on an environmental health topic.
Other Courses for Nursing Students
Dr. Jeanne Hewitt developed a three-hour lecture for the undergraduate public health nursing course of study. A 25-minute documentary on workers and a community exposed to dibromochloropropane and the resulting environmental health effects serve as a virtual site visit in this lecture. Approximately 175 undergraduate students have benefited from this experience each year since 2001.
In addition, in 2004 she developed a new course on environmental and occupational health. The lectures for this course were designed to meet the Institute of Medicine core environmental health competencies in nursing. An essential element of the course is a 'site visit' to an environmental and/or occupational site that is linked to the class readings and discussion. Each week, students identify relevant peer-reviewed research papers that expand upon that week's reading. During the course, students access environmental health research from the Environmental Health Perspective's Internet site, and demonstrate accuracy in their interpretation of the findings from EHP and their application to nursing practice. As part of the learning experience, students also lead seminar sessions which require them to apply environmental health concepts.