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Nursing faculty, students help seniors survive summer heat

Posted on Monday, July 14, 2014 · Volume: XLVII · Issue: 13


Nursing faculty members and students are ready to visit with older adults about the ++Do You Have a Cool Neighbor?++ program. They are (left to right) Ruth Grubesic, RN, Dr.P.H.; Anthia Murray, RN, M.P.H., M.S.N.; nursing students Jennifer Agbanlog, Jennifer Gomez and Brenda Perez; and Roseann Vivanco,  RN, M.S.N.
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Nursing faculty members and students are ready to visit with older adults about the "Do You Have a Cool Neighbor?" program. They are (left to right) Ruth Grubesic, RN, Dr.P.H.; Anthia Murray, RN, M.P.H., M.S.N.; nursing students Jennifer Agbanlog, Jennifer Gomez and Brenda Perez; and Roseann Vivanco, RN, M.S.N.clear graphic

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By Rosanne Fohn

In 2009, the deaths of elderly twin sisters made the news. The sisters died at home when they did not turn on their air conditioner when the temperature climbed to dangerously high levels. They may have avoided cooling their home to save money or just did not realize how hot it was.

Their deaths spurred the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) to partner with other agencies and the School of Nursing at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, to begin the “Do You Have a Cool Neighbor?” program.


Keep your eye on 85

Through the program, Health Science Center School of Nursing faculty members and students, as well as volunteers from area agencies, educate older adults through senior centers to prevent the sisters' tragedy from happening again.

“Heat injury is critical for seniors. Elders on diuretics and blood pressure medications are especially at risk. They can dehydrate fast,” said Anthia Murray, RN, M.P.H., M.S.N., clinical assistant professor of family and community health systems in the School of Nursing.

Materials the nursing faculty members and students are distributing include door hangers with heat injury information and thermometers marked at 85 degrees.
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Materials the nursing faculty members and students are distributing include door hangers with heat injury information and thermometers marked at 85 degrees.clear graphic

 

The agencies and nursing students will distribute approximately 2,000 thermometers and informative fliers to vulnerable individuals, including persons with disabilities and the homebound. The thermometers are marked at 85 degrees and are intended to be placed inside the home, so seniors and others will know when to turn on fans or an air conditioner, or go to a cooler place, such as a library or senior center.

Seniors also are encouraged to look out for each other and communicate with neighbors to ensure they do not succumb to the heat.

Prevention through education

The health education program is part of the clinical work done in the School of Nursing’s six-week, summer “Population-Focused Health” class for fourth-semester accelerated nursing students. Some third-semester students also are volunteering at the senior centers.

In addition to learning about vulnerable populations, the nursing students write lesson plans for their presentations to the seniors, and give the elders surveys to fill out before and after the presentations to measure how much they learned. The nursing students learn how to report these statistics for public health purposes.

“Every group of seniors greeted us warmly and were a wonderful audience,” said third-semester nursing student Jennifer Gomez. “We give them the thermometers and door hangers with information about heat injury, and we answer any questions they have.”

Fourth-year student Mary Al-Amin added, “We are talking to elders about steps for preventing dehydration; increasing their awareness of the signs and symptoms of dehydration; and describing to them possible complications related to the effects of exposure to high temperatures. We also explain the steps to prevent, and remedies for managing, heat-related symptoms.”

Other nursing faculty members involved in the program are:
  • Adelita Cantu, Ph.D., M.S., RN, assistant professor and director of the theory part of the course;
  • Martha Martinez, RN, M.S.N. , clinical assistant professor, who directs the clinical portion of the course;
  • Rebekah Salt, Ph.D., M.S.N., RN, assistant professor;
  • Roseann Vivanco, RN, M.S.N. , clinical assistant professor; and
  • Ruth Grubesic, RN, Dr.P.H. , from Shreiner University, a former Health Science Center nursing faculty member who is working with the summer program.

 
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