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May 21, 2002


Emory Nursing Students Take Health Care to Migrant Farm Workers and Their Families

Nursing faculty and students from Emory University will travel next month to the south Georgia city of Moultrie and the surrounding area to provide health care services to migrant farm workers and their families.

During the weeks of June 9-14 and June 16-21, approximately 30 baccalaureate and nurse practitioner students will work each morning at Sunset Elementary School. Over the two intensive weeks, they will assess and examine nearly 500 children enrolled in the Summer Migrant Education Program. In the evening, the nursing students will staff a mobile clinic, called the Nightingale Van, to assess, examine and treat adults. The van, equipped with two exam rooms and bathroom facilities, will travel to migrant work camps and packing sheds in Colquitt, Tift and Cook counties.

For the first time, the Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing has undertaken the nursing component of the Migrant Family Health Program that began in 1994 at Georgia State University (GSU). According to Lorine Spencer, the nursing consultant who headed the program at GSU and now guides the program at Emory, students can expect an "intensive immersion learning experience."

"This program helps students tremendously by exposing them to all types of health problems, people and cultures," Spencer said. "We see a lot of Hispanic people as well as Haitians and people from other Caribbean Islands."

The Migrant Family Health Program also includes dental hygiene students from Clayton State College and University to teach proper dental care, psychology students from GSU to assess and identify learning disabilities, GSU physical therapy students, and students from the Agnes Scott College anthropology department. The group will also be assisted by Spanish-speaking outreach workers from the stateÕs farmworker program.

Emory undergraduate nursing students will conduct screenings on migrant children to include vision and hearing, a urinalysis to check for urinary tract infections, hemoglobin tests to screen for anemia, and height and weight measurements to assess growth development. Family nurse practitioner students will perform physical assessments on all children and refer those with medical problems.

The migrant family adults will be screened for blood pressure, weight, height, hemoglobin, glucose and other tests as needed. Dr. Judith Wold, program director, anticipates that the most common health ailments in migrant adults will be muscle strains, back problems, urinary tract infections, skin rashes, and eye infections.

There are more than 100,000 migrant and seasonal farm workers in Georgia. Their health problems are often different and more complex than the general population. The repetitive and high physical demands of their jobs, pesticide exposure, poor access to health care and substandard housing conditions contribute to the poor health of migrant farm workers and their families. And with pay rates frequently less than minimum wage, they generally donÕt earn enough to pay for health care. They often fear losing wages and even their jobs if they take time off to seek health care.

Wold believes universities such as Emory are in a "strategic position to act on behalf of and work in partnership with disadvantaged communities through service learning projects to promote equity, justice and accountability in building new health care models.

"Combining service and experiential learning is a natural extension of the service concept that has been historically a part of nursing education," Wold says. "Service learning is a mutually beneficial arrangement between a community in need of service and an educational institution that needs to educate its students in social responsibility, social competence and global awareness."

Other partners involved include the Southeastern Primary Care Consortium/Atlanta Area Health Education Center, South Georgia College (supplies the Nightingale van), the Georgia Department of Human Resources, the Colquitt County Health Department, and local farm owners, physicians, churches, businesses and volunteers.

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