By Walter Villa, Special to STU
Less drinking, more thinking.
That was one of the many messages imparted on Monday by St. Thomas University nursing students, who hosted “Community Health Day” on campus.
STU nursing students, such as Lauren Vicent and Brandy Walters, set up several tables at the library breezeway, talking to anyone who passed by about health issues, including breast cancer, alcohol abuse, and intimate partner violence.
Walters said she and her classmates have been visiting a community senior center for the past seven weeks, helping with their health care.
“Now we have our ‘health day’ on campus,” Walters said, “and we are teaching about things that are prevalent in our community.”
That type of commitment is emblematic of STU nursing students, who have made remarkable progress since Dr. Doris Teran was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer in July of 2021.
At that time, STU students were passing the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Exam) – which is the equivalent to the bar exam for those studying law – at just a 30-percent clip.
Fast forward two-plus years, and STU nursing students are passing the NCLEX at a rate of 87.5 percent.
Dr. Teran said there are several reasons for the massive improvement.
“We have built a great team,” Teran said, “and we have a mentality of working together — students and faculty.”
Dr. Teran also said she has an “open door” policy for students who wish to meet with her.
“We believe in listening to students’ concerns and implementing any needed changes,” Dr. Teran said. “We also provide mentorship for our students. Our faculty members have set aside 30 minutes every week per student to go over course work that they may be struggling with and/or to listen to any other concerns.”
STU Provost Michelle Johnson-Garcia said she is thrilled to see the growth of the nursing program.
“It’s encouraging to see what can be accomplished in a short span with a well-laid plan and with execution and dedication from our nursing faculty members and students,” Provost Johnson-Garcia said.
Professor Pauline Louis, an STU nursing instructor, said Community Health Day is an important time for her students.
“It’s about taking care of your community, especially vulnerable people who have less access to health care,” Professor Louis said. “We provide blood pressure and other health screenings, as well as information on nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases and the dangers of smoking.”
Vicent, the aforementioned STU nursing student, focused on breast-cancer awareness during the event.
“Currently,” Vicent said, “one out of eight American women have been diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.”
Vicent listed some of the risk factors: drinking too much alcohol, being overweight, and not participating in enough physical activity. The lack of a healthy diet is another issue, she said, and genetics also play a role.
Early detection is crucial.
Walters, the other STU nursing student mentioned above, worked a table at which the dangers of drinking and driving were discussed.
As part of her table’s interactive display, participants could don a pair of “drunk goggles” which simulate the vision loss that happens when someone has been overserved.
(Spoiler alert: It is a substantial loss of vision.)
Walters also said that it takes one hour to get one ounce of alcohol out of your body.
“So, if you are drinking seven shots in an hour,” Walters said, “it takes seven hours for your body to process that amount of alcohol.”
Walters said a group of friends who go out drinking should have a responsible person serve as a designated driver. Taking a cab home is another good option.
Dr. Jodi Grace, who teaches health psychology at STU, was also at Community Heath Day, and among the issues she spoke about was smoking.
“I saw one study in which they asked 10 physicians about the most important health change a person could make,” Dr. Grace said. “Nine of those 10 doctors said, ‘Quit smoking.’
“If we eliminated all forms of tobacco, we would save 400,000 lives per year.”
Overall, Community Health Day was a major success, and Provost Johnson-Garcia said St. Thomas University is more than happy to host the event.
“We understand the importance of wellness — not only for our students but also for our community at large,” she said. “This is an opportunity to show all the resources we have available for them.”