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Service-Learning Profile: Polly McArthur & Tami Bland

mcarthur1tblandCourse: Nursing 382

Instructors: Polly McArthur & Tami Bland

Authored by Dr. Lisa Fall, Associate Professor of Advertising and Public Relations and Noah Mayhew, Senior in Public Relations


In the true spirit of service learning, the nursing 382 course partners students with local agencies for health promotion and maintenance in the community. Experiencing “nursing” in this course entails much more than the typical routine and students appreciate this creative way to learn.

The course is comprised of five credit hours – three in class and two in the field. With the primary experience, students work for six weeks with a community partner, such as a school nurse, a refugee center, a parish nurse, people who are experiencing homelessness, or senior adults living alone. During alternative experiences, students work immersed in distant places, such as rural Appalachia, Costa Rica, or Qualla Boundary, the sovereign nation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. Additionally, students engage in an array of community service-oriented activities, including delivering mobile meals, working at a day program for adults with disabilities, or planning community health fairs.

One community health fair, well none to the UT community, is the annual Health Beat which takes place each spring on the UT campus. Students work with community agencies to provide health education and screening. Other health fair events are smaller such as students working with an area elementary school to include an afternoon of health teaching and activities in an after-school program.

A unique opportunity in this course is a partnership with the disABILITY Resource Center (dRC). Staff and volunteers from the DRC provide and educational simulation experience to the students. The students, in turn, take this new knowledge into the community where they survey area restaurants regarding handicapped accessibility. Reports are given back to the DRC who share this information with their clients.

“Service learning is a natural fit with the community health course,” said Clinical Assistant Professor Polly McArthur. “Nursing students engage with people in their community where they work, live, play, and worship. The focus is on health promotion activities that lead to greater longevity and better quality of life for individuals, families, communities, and populations.”

“The core philosophy of the course is true partnership with community agencies dedicated to social justice and health equity. Through advanced planning and effective, on-going communication, the academic and community partners identify needs and plan services that enhance the resources and capacity of the agency. Students apply knowledge, skills, and attitudes introduced in the academic setting to their experiences in the field,” explained Dr. Bland, Clinical Assistant Professor and co-instructor.

The arrangement for this five-credit course is rather unique. It allows students to get a complete understanding of nursing as opposed to just getting a “snapshot” of what takes place at a doctor’s office or hospital. This “big picture” of health and healthcare allows the student to better care for their patient both in the hospital and after the patient goes home.

“Students take this course at the same time they take a “medical-surgical” course focused on acute care in the hospital. Together, these courses develop nursing skills for caring across the lifespan of individuals as well as caring for families, communities, and populations. Students understand that illness is not the opposite of health or solely the result of lifestyle and genetics,” Dr. Bland said. “By being in the community and addressing challenges and barriers, students



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