To the editor:
This past Monday, nearly one month after the catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti, SSC senior nursing students did what they were trained to do, and did it well.
Uniformed in white coats and armed with stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, the students dispersed to multiple locations on campus, taking blood pressures and accepting donations for Haiti. In total, they took nearly 200 blood pressure readings and raised $1,364.06 to support Partners in Health, a Boston-based organization that has been working in Haiti for more than 20 years.
The initiative came about when the students saw such devastation and suffering in Haiti and wanted to do something to help. After some discussion, they realized that although they could not directly help the victims, they did have skills that they could use to assist those who were able to help. And so the idea to raise money by taking blood pressure readings was planned and developed.
In all, it was a "win-win" for everyone: The students were able to organize and conduct a blood pressure screening clinic while providing a civic service to the college community and global relief to Haiti. Partners in Health was selected by the students based on its outstanding reputation as a charitable organization and because it best fit with the principles they were learning in public health nursing — to combat poverty and disease by providing access to primary health care, forming long-term community partnerships and addressing basic social and economic needs for the impoverished of the underdeveloped world.
There were many lessons learned from this experience. It reinforced the high prevalence of hypertension even in the student population. Of those screened, nearly 40 percent met the criteria for pre-hypertension (blood pressure greater than 130/85) or hypertension (blood pressure greater than 140/90). These findings are significant because according to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension is the No. 1 risk factor for premature death worldwide; and in the U.S., heart disease and stroke are the top two leading causes of death.
Students were optimistic that their one-one-one counseling and education may have helped prevent a serious outcome in some cases.
They also learned that when a disaster occurs, each of us, together with others, can make a difference. Times such as these can bring out the best in us all. The work of these students is just one example.
Dr. Barbara A. Poremba
Professor of Nursing
Salem State College