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Grant enables nursing faculty, students to assist in public health emergencies

RELEASED: Sept. 16, 2010

EAU CLAIRE — A public health grant has helped better prepare students and faculty in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to assist with public health immunization efforts in western Wisconsin.

The $4,500 Public Health Emergency Response Grant was awarded to UW-Eau Claire through the Public Health Preparedness Program of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Division of Public Health. The funds were part of a larger grant to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The grant, written by Dr. Susan Moch, professor of nursing, and Dr. Mary Canales, associate professor of nursing, increased coordination between the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and local health departments in west-central Wisconsin regarding the response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic. The grant provided opportunities for student nurses to be more involved with H1N1 immunization clinics, which relieved overburdened local health department staff and increased opportunities for community members to receive the H1N1vaccine, Moch said.

Student nurses provided H1N1 immunization shots and health education about influenza prevention and general health promotion to individuals and families attending immunization clinics, said Timothy Ringhand, regional public health nursing consultant with the Eau Claire Western Region office of the state Division of Public Health.

"This project provides a model of how student nurses can provide support for local health departments during a public health emergency while also enhancing their knowledge of public health nursing practice," Ringhand said.

Moch said the grant gave UW-Eau Claire nursing students valuable hands-on experience.

"Our students participated in real experiences with public health nurses and clients in local communities, and they learned how to engage more people in participating in the immunization clinics," she said.

In addition to supporting nursing students' assistance at the H1N1 immunization clinics, the grant funded student research and dissemination of information on pandemic preparedness and the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic at Wisconsin's 2010 public health nurse conference held in August in Stevens Point.

"I was able to learn what I would be expected to do in a pandemic situation and how I could help public health nurses to handle this situation," said UW-Eau Claire nursing student Jamie Callahan. "I also was able to get experience using evidence-based papers to support using nursing students in this situation."

While the grant focused specifically on the College of Nursing and Health Sciences assisting with the response to the H1N1 pandemic, principles learned also have enabled the college to create a system for improved coordination with public health agencies during other public health emergencies in the future, Moch said.

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JP/DW

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