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By Kathleen Costa Lieberthal, clinical coordinator, MATC Registered Nursing Associate Degree Program

Many current events and issues discussed in the media are health related. For instance, today’s news is filled with word of an incidence of the Ebola virus being confirmed in the U.S.

Nursing is an ever-changing discipline that requires nurses to integrate new developments into patient care. MATC’s associate degree course “Health Promotion Across the Life Span” is one way instructors teach students to incorporate new issues or trends into their daily work. The Ebola virus, childhood obesity, the Affordable Care Act, football players and violence against women, controversy over use of the “switch” to discipline children, decisions about whether or not to immunize, nutrition/diet trends and issues affecting our aging population are just some of the current trending topics integrated into nursing classes.

Students learn about what impacts their own lives and the lives within their family/community by reading websites such as HealthyPeople.gov and following media stories.

The spread of the Ebola virus and the enterovirus D68 are both highlighted in the news now. Students learn which resources provide the most current and reliable information about health issues. They learn that the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov, is a reliable source with information about control and prevention of developing diseases. Students have learned that Ebola is a virus stemming from West Africa with threats of outbreak worldwide. A case was just confirmed in Dallas, Texas. They have become aware of enterovius D68, how it is spread and the impact it has on the community. Students can share their knowledge of disease prevention at home, in their communities and with future clients.

The controversy over the practice of co-sleeping is discussed using current events and infant deaths reported in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An active discussion involving cultural values, belief systems and perceptions of safety helps students better understand the complexity of the issue. Students discuss and analyze why co-sleeping is a difficult behavior to change and the response community education efforts have on public health. Utilizing current reliable websites like http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sleep/cosleeping.html help students understand what is important and to objectively analyze people’s responses.

Parenting and discipline also has been widely covered recently because a Minnesota Vikings player was recently indicted on child abuse charges for allegedly hitting his son with a switch. Can parents use corporal punishment to discipline kids? Or are there other methods, such as positive parenting explained at http://informedfamilies.org to assist in parenting?  Students discuss the parenting styles they grew up with and the differences in authoritative and authoritarian parenting style. They discuss difficulties in raising their own children, the likely outcomes of parenting decisions and consider alternative parenting methods.

As students discuss these issues, we learn there are many different student perceptions which reflect different opinions in society. As instructors, we help students understand the issues and challenges faced by clients whose perceptions may differ from theirs and help them to objectively understand and educate their clients. Raising student awareness of health issues is a huge step in helping students become objective health care workers.

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