UMass Dartmouth’s College of Nursing & Health Sciences (CNHS) has always been an eager community partner. From organizing flu and Covid-19 vaccination clinics to collecting supplies and other outreach efforts, nursing students and faculty have worked together to improve community health outcomes.
A new community initiative that could save lives in emergency situations was introduced recently to local public health officials. At a presentation led by CNHS Student Support Services, officials learned about a new first aid training program for sophomore nursing students that could directly benefit their communities.
Matthew Armendo, director of the Westport Health Department, and Lori Desmarais, a public health nurse in Freetown and public health director in Marion, learned about SMART (Student Medical Assistance Response Team) first aid training that 160 sophomore nursing students received during the recent Student Leadership Academy, held on campus from September 5-6.
Through hands-on workshops, students were trained by GMEC Education in first aid and medical operations, urban search and rescue, terrorism awareness, and disaster psychology. This training will enhance students’ ability to clearly define roles within a team event during first aid/trauma scenarios and is invaluable for their future roles as nurses. At the end of the two-day academy, the sophomore nursing students practiced what they learned on first-year nursing students.
Training prepares students with patient assessment skills and provides exposure to careers in nursing
According to CNHS Dean Kimberly Christopher, the SMART training program will offer students exposure to public health nursing. “The college is very excited to expand our public health and emergency preparation training to include our sophomore nursing students. We look forward to partnering with local communities to provide these services as well as opportunities for our students to apply their training in a public health setting.”
“This is part of the sophomores’ onboarding process to serve and further engage and prepare for their sophomore year,” said Student Support Services Program Director Jason Campagnone. “Sophomores have completed a year of college and will be learning about patient assessment. Serving on a first aid team will enable them to learn new skills and about serving on a team.
“We are hoping that this new initiative will keep students excited, get them engaged to work with their peers, and connect with classmates in the lab and in the field. The program could be a building block for future public health emergency and other training. And they will learn about many more options for jobs after college in addition to bedside nursing,” Campagnone added.
Prior to attending the academy, students completed three FEMA classes online. Each student received a binder that includes protocols from FEMA in disaster situations and they learned how to manage the paperwork and documentation.
Following the training and practice, the students will be tested and SMART certified and will be qualified to perform first aid as a team. All sophomores will be required to volunteer their first aid training for at least one community event. Campagnone expects that students will begin serving this semester beginning with campus events.
According to Campagnone, “Sophomore year is the toughest year for nursing students. It’s when they transition from a college student to a young professional. We want to help them build their skills with something they can have fun with.”
“This is a very intense training,” added Campagnone, a former regional director for the American Red Cross. “Students will learn to make decisions about assessing and treating patients. How do you triage a situation? What learning can be applied? They have come to college to become a nurse and they have to learn to apply what they’ve learned to the field.”
Armendo said the program would be helpful for flu clinics, contact tracing, vaccine clinics, and large community events in Westport. “This could be a great partnership,” he said. “Covid has opened doors to new ways of doing things. We are planning to get more community events off the ground like the Westport Fair this fall. It’s a big event and this program could be helpful.”
Kenny Maxfield and Katelyn Feeney, both senior nurse leaders, will help lead the SMART training.
“Any opportunity you have to apply your knowledge is bread and butter for a student nurse,” said Maxfield following the presentation. “In these situations, you only have a minute to assess a patient and build a rapport. SMART training will prepare students to build professional relationships with patients, peers, and the communities they serve.”