Bradley nursing student host health fair at Salvation Army

April 5, 2012

By Tim Belter ’13

For a third consecutive year, Bradley nursing students utilized their knowledge and talents to help out at the March Madness Health Fair at the Salvation Army Family Service Center.

This year’s event was the largest yet, with the students providing health education, screenings and treatments to 91 clients at the service center in downtown Peoria.

“Every year we expand the number of health education sessions,” nursing professor Dr. Kelly Schwend said. “We’ve just seen so much need from our clients.”

Senior nursing students organized and ran the event with help from community health providers like Proctor Hospital, the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Peoria and the Mental Health Association of Illinois Valley. The different educational booths covered a wide range of topics like heart health, skin care, nutrition, relationships and mental health. Each booth also offered attendants a small gift like a healthy snack or a toothbrush.

“Many times, our clients can only get help when they’re already sick. This fair is great because we can focus on education and prevention,” Dr. Schwend said.

“The clients are very excited and look forward to this fair,” senior nursing major Jeremy Wright said. “Some of them don’t have the basics that we take for granted, so it’s really important to them.”

The clients help the students, as well. Because the Family Service Center has no nursing staff, the students volunteering there learn in a more independent environment.

“They’re able to see how well they perform in an autonomous role,” said Dr. Schwend. “They have a revelation about how much they know.”

The students also help clients deal with more than just health issues by directing them to community resources for financial services, mental health counseling and domestic abuse assistance.

“We’re looking more at personal situations,” Wright said. “At a hospital, you just look at what you’re treating, but here, you get more perspective. You get a better understanding of where people are coming from.”

That perspective is a key part of the students’ growth as professionals and as providers of medical services in their community.

“That’s the heart of nursing, caring for everyone,” said Dr. Schwend. “It’s important that whatever role we’re in, we serve the community.”