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Nursing, Oceanic Institute in HPU service learning efforts

by Valentina M. Abordonado, Ph. D., HPU Service Learning Program chair

As the HPU Service Learning program faculty begins its second year of participation in the Systems of Service in Island Societies grant, we pause for a moment to reflect on our service to the community and our contributions to the academic learning of our students.

In our Health Promotion and Education Project, 10 faculty and 70 senior-level community health students at HPU’s School of Nursing provided 4,784 hours of health promotion and education at 10 community-based agencies, schools, health fairs, and individual residences.


Senior-level nursing students involved in this project expanded their knowledge and experience by engaging patients and clients in individual consultations and small-group discussions on health-related topics. One student observed, “I learned just how critical it is to make sure that the information about drug use is made readily available to the community, because knowledge is power.”

In addition, sophomore-level nursing students who participated in this project learned to apply theories of health promotion/education by presenting classes to K-12 students on nutrition, cancer, heart disease, exercise, dental hygiene, safety, and substance abuse. Four faculty members and 188 students provided 940 service-learning hours in 15 community-based organizations to 570 K-12 students.

One student reported a greater depth of understanding of health-related topics as a result of this service-learning experience. She observed, “It helped me to gain insight on how big of an issue drug abuse is in Hawai‘i. I also became more aware of how the budget for Drug Free Hawai‘i plays a major role in what they have to offer the public”.

Nursing students also participated in health fairs sponsored by community organizations. One student commented, “One experience that changed me was the ‘Relay for Life.’ To see how much effort and love was put into this event really touched my heart.”

HPU’s Senior Care Project assisted seniors with health information, activities of daily living, interactive contact, discharge planning, case management, counseling, and other activities to enhance healthy aging. Nine HPU nursing faculty and 212 senior and junior nursing students provided 8,097 hours of senior care/service to 1,763 senior clients at 26 community agencies and 154 individual residences.

Students involved in this project assisted seniors in healthy control of their lives through resource referrals, health information, participation in exercise programs, therapeutic reminiscence, medication review, assistance in activities of daily living, counseling, reduced social isolation, and interactive contact and activities for seniors in community-based and long-term care agencies/facilities. Students provided these services in community group settings as well as in seniors’ homes.

Faculty and students who participate in the Senior Care Project enhanced the quality of life of seniors and their families in Hawai‘i’s communities. One student said, “I think the service-learning projects gave me an opportunity to participate in activities I would otherwise never have been involved in. I am encouraged and inspired to do more.” Another student who tutored elderly Chinese immigrants as they prepared for the naturalization examination commented: “I can see how much I’ve changed throughout the course.”

Students engaged in this project increased their knowledge about senior issues and needs at individual, family, and community levels. As one student remarked, “This service-learning experience reinforced my desire to treat seniors will dignity and respect and to make them feel a part of the community.”

In addition, students were able to decrease isolation and loneliness while increasing senior knowledge of mental, physical, and emotional health. One student reflected, “Since I worked with the elderly community, I learned to reflect on my life and reexamine how I want to live my life as an older adult. It taught me to live a healthier and more active life so that I can enjoy what life has to offer me.”

In our Environmental Stewardship Project, students have gained a deeper understanding of oceanographic research and have applied ecological principles and methods to marine habitats. Last year, seven faculty members and two students provided 60 hours of service in collaboration with five community organizations by tracking changes in carbon dioxide accumulation and ocean movements important to local fisheries in Kane‘ohe Bay. In September 2004, this project was featured on KGMB news and on the KHON Morning Show.

In support of this project, HPU has developed a new course titled Environmental Communication to provide students with an opportunity to learn effective environmental communication strategies that will increase public awareness of changes in the near-shore environment. Students will also make this oceanographic data available to policymakers who will use this data to make decisions that will help protect and restore coastal zones in our fragile island marine environment.

Participants in this project have established an affiliation with the Oceanic Institute, which aims to expand education and research into Hawai‘i’s marine environment. In addition, HPU has developed partnerships with Friends of Hei‘a, the University of Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, Castle High School, and the University of Hawai‘i Department of Oceanography.


2004, Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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