Students in The University of Tulsa’s family nurse practitioner (FNP) program receive individual attention and the tools necessary to help them elevate nursing core values to the advanced practice, primary care level. These students are challenged to pay forward their knowledge and skills in assessment, diagnosis and prescribing through ongoing opportunities to make their communities a better place for all.
On July 7, a group of first-year FNP students spent the morning providing sports physicals free of charge to students at Will Rogers College High School, a Title 1 institution. This was the third time FNP students had undertaken this service-learning initiative. Because of the COVID-19 health crisis, this latest effort was conducted with full safety protocols in place: masks, gloves and sanitizer for both the nurse practitioner students and the high school students, who also maintained a safe physical distance from each other while waiting their turn.
Increasing access to care
The FNP program’s director, Sheryl Stansifer, launched this initiative two years ago when she learned that many students at Will Rogers were returning to school in August without a completed sports physical. The lack of such a physical, which typically costs $20 or more, means a young person cannot participate in school sports.
Will Rogers’ athletic director, Krystel Markwardt, enthused about the impact of “this wonderful program,” noting that “our students come from diverse economic backgrounds, and their families couldn’t afford to pay for physicals. The FNP students work quickly and efficiently, and their efforts mean our athletes are able to compete in the summer and be prepared for early fall sports.” As Stansifer pointed out, the issue is “bigger than playing basketball or joining the swim team. For many kids, getting involved in sports means they will stay in school and graduate.”
Developing primary care skills
The benefits of this service-learning project are tangible for both the young athletes and the FNP students. Sports physicals are a common component of primary care, and all of TU’s FNP students must complete pediatric assessments and be checked off on sports physicals. Providing sports physicals to the Will Rogers students enables the future FNPs to satisfy that requirement.
Frankie Frieda, one of the FNP students who took part in the most recent venture, noted that “this kind of activity is very beneficial for us. It helps us prepare for when we’re doing these things in our own practices and careers. It’s great experience and we’re so happy to be able to come out and do this today.”
In addition, Stansifer commented, delivering these physicals “enables faculty members to assess FNP students’ interactions with the patients/athletes and their ability to complete the forms accurately. Because so many health care teams comprise a variety of professionals, having an opportunity to collaborate with the school’s athletic trainer adds a critical interdisciplinary component to their development.”
Two FNP students who participated in the Will Rogers project during a previous semester are Alejandra Paredes and Vicky Cha. Originally from Peru (she moved to the United States when she was 13), Paredes has been a registered nurse (RN) since 2014. Cha is a first-generation Hmong-American who grew up in California.
“I always knew my career end-goal was to become a nurse practitioner (NP),” Paredes said. “I wanted to gain experience as an RN so I could become a better NP. I am looking forward to having more autonomy in the care that I deliver to my patients, and it’s important to me to be able to help them focus on health maintenance and disease prevention, while being mindful of individuals’ emotional, physical and spiritual health.” One of Cha’s major goals, meanwhile, is to bring health care to people who are often on the margins, a mission she finds supported at TU. “I admire the TU School of Nursing’s mission to not only cultivate students to become leaders in health care, but also to give back to their communities.”
This is something Cha experienced first hand with the Will Rogers service-learning initiative, and which resonated on a personal level. “My parents were Hmong refugees and I grew up with minimal resources. One of the biggest struggles was not being able to take part in sports because my parents couldn’t afford the fees and transportation. Providing free sports physicals for Will Rogers students, many of whom have a background similar to mine, exemplifies one of the most rewarding aspects of nursing: making a positive impact on another person’s life.”
Reflecting on her experience providing physicals for these youth, Paredes arrived at a similar conclusion: “I believe that caring for others, regardless of social, racial or economic background, is a core value of nursing.”
If you are an RN who wants to excel in primary care delivery, consider getting the advanced practice knowledge, skills and experience you need in TU’s family nurse practitioner program.