The community based curriculum of the Calvin nursing program is grounded in Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR). Qualitative and quantitative data were gathered from all three partnering neighborhoods to help identify the top health concerns of each neighborhood. A key principle of CBPR is that people are not only able to identify their health concerns but also solutions to the concerns that they have. All three neighborhoods had common themes arise on how to address their neighborhood’s health concerns. Residents asked our nursing program to bring health care to people, going door to door or locating at neighborhood sites. They encouraged us to provide health promotion and protection to prevent health concerns before they arise. They also asked us to create leaders from their neighborhood in the area of health, similar to a block captain.
In response to the neighborhoods request, a unique program which partners community health workers with nursing students was designed and integrated into the community focused practicum for senior nursing students. A pilot of the CHW program was initiated in 2004 in one neighborhood using money the college had received from a Community Outreach Partnership Center grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program was so well received that a large local hospital, Spectrum Health (specifically the Healthier Communities Department), funded continuation and expansion of the program to the nursing department’s other two partnering neighborhoods.
Five CHWs are recruited from each urban neighborhood. Each CHW forms a team with two senior nursing students. Qualifications for being a CHW are: living within the neighborhood they were working, serving as an active and positive role model, and having a passion for reaching the community. During the community focused practicum, CHW / nursing student teams spend at least 3 hours a week locating at neighborhood sites and / or going door to door in the CHW’s neighborhood discussing health issues with residents and promoting health education and access to care.
Data has been collected on the program since its initiation in 2004 to study the program’s impact on health and resident satisfaction with the program. Presently an article is being written to publish the results of this highly successful program.