FANWOOD/SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA has partnered with Seton Hall University’s College of Nursing to host 19 senior undergraduate students majoring in nursing. Throughout the month of April, the students have been working on the clinical portion of their community health class and have been interning at the Y.

The nursing students have been working – at a distance – with the Y’s Educational Child Care students and participants in the active older adult exercise programs, educating them about different health topics.

“It’s been a wonderful experience having the student nurses here to teach both our children and adults about important health topics,” said Kathy Barros, the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA’s Senior Director of Child Care Services. “When presented with this opportunity, I was excited about what the nurses could bring to our programs and also to help with the education of the next generation of health care providers.”

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Recently, two of the student nurses could be seen teaching the Y’s 3-year-old Child Care students about germs and the importance of hand-washing. The nursing students also wrote tips on ways parents can reinforce proper hand-washing. One of the Y’s Kindergarten classes had a visit from two other student nurses about the importance of exercise and good nutrition. These nursing students did an outside exercise program with the children about “go” foods and “whoa” foods.

Another two nursing students participated with the active older adults in an exercise class for persons with arthritis led by the Y’s Healthy Living Director Donna Peart. Students met with the adults to discuss health, medications and lifestyle habits. The nursing students learned from the group that the exercise class helps participants stay mobile, maintain their balance, and provides opportunities for social interaction while maintaining social distancing. The students provided a handout on foods to eat and avoid with arthritis and discussed lifestyle management to reduce pain from arthritis.

In addition, a group of nursing students met with the active older adults attending the Enhance® Fitness program led by Mrs. Peart. These students presented on healthy lifestyles that contribute to a normal blood pressure. They discussed a handout on what is blood pressure, normal range of blood pressure, pre-hypertension, and the effects of exercise and diet on blood pressure.  Following this program, the nursing students checked the blood pressure of participants, and recorded their blood pressure on a card given to each participant.

Dr. Kathleen Sternas, PhD, RN, is an associate professor at Seton Hall University’s College of Nursing and one of the faculty members who comes to the Y with the nursing students. She explained that in past years, nursing students in the community health class often did their clinicals at places like senior care facilities, home care agencies and schools, but it became difficult to do so due to COVID-19. Dr. Sternas was connected to the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance and three YMCAs – including Fanwood-Scotch Plains – stepped up to help with the nursing students’ education.

“The nursing students are very excited,” Dr. Sternas said. “It’s a win-win. They teach the children about different health topics and our nursing students are learning about the growth and development of children. The nursing students also had to learn about child abuse prevention before starting with the Y program, which is important for them to know as nurses as well.”

Dr. Sternas noted that the hope is for this to be the beginning of a partnership with New Jersey YMCAs, and that she plans to return to the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA with a new set of nursing students in the Fall.

She added: “At the Y, there are many opportunities for learning about and promoting community health.”  

The Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the individuals, families and communities it serves through programs and services that build wholeness of spirit, mind and body. The YMCA is a not-for-profit organization founded on Christian principles, serving people of all ages, races, faith, cultures and socio-economic conditions. For information please call the Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA at (908) 889-8880 or visit Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.