Nursing educators strive to match teaching strategies and available resources to the learning needs of their students. Faculty at rural tribal colleges are uniquely challenged to meet the learning needs of Native American students as well as provide clinical experiences in a sparsely populated area. A collegewide health fair is an alternative strategy we have used successfully to meet these objectives.
The primary mission of the tribal college is to meet the educational and cultural needs of native peoples and provide service to the surrounding community. Ib accomplish its goal, the college maintains a high level of visibility within the community through its many outreach programs. As in many rural communities, the college not only serves as a center for higher education but a center for community events. By holding an annual health fair, the nursing faculty and students are able to actively carry out the mission of the college. Unique to tribal colleges is the general feeling of ownership among students and community members. Because of this, college-sponsored events are well supported by both groups, adding to the success of the college health fair.
The college is located on an Indian reservation midway between two small urban centers. Travel distances, weather conditions, fluctuating client census, limited clinical facilities, and student learning styles are considered when planning student placement. Tribal health clinics, rural and urban hospitals, and public schools are used. The college health fair has proven to be a valuable addition to the clinical courses.
While there is no unique Indian learning style, research does show frequent common patterns of learning among Indian students. Utilizing a teaching method that matches the preferred learning style can have a significant effect on student success. Many Native Americans learn best in collaborative groups and with peerdirected activity. They do best when given time to think and practice in private or in small groups before acting independently.
Indian students tend to be eventoriented. Everything that is read, heard, or seen is connected to their own lives. Activities that support their strengths include precise guided assignments and those that build on their interest and prior knowledge. All of these concepts are supported by a health fair.
For the past three years, first- and second-year associate degree nursing students, faculty, and community mentors have planned and implemented a health fair. Faculty and students recognize that this project addresses the unique learning needs and styles of Native American students while adding variety to the learning opportunities available to students attending nursing school in a rural community. College objectives to provide community outreach are also met.
Group process, teaching-learning theory, and the teaching role of the nurse are introduced during the first quarter of the nursing program and remain a strong thread throughout the nursing curriculum. Students apply teaching-learning principles to meet course objectives that move from simple explanations of care during the first quarter, to discharge teaching and presentations to their peers and community groups during quarters four and five. Group process, an integral part of nursing and Native American culture, is built upon each quarter, moving from simple to more complex issues. Students work in groups during theory and clinical courses using theory presented in class. The health fair allows students to practice both teaching and group-process strategies in a supportive environment.
During the winter quarter, nursing faculty meet with first- and second-year students to begin planning for the spring health fair. Faculty facilitate a group discussion of current health care issues paying particular attention to those of concern to Native Americans and rural residents. Topics are prioritized by the student group and selected for the health fair based on course objectives, community needs, and health care trends. Faculty determine the number and level of students needed for each topic area. Students select a topic of focus based on their interest and learning needs.
From the beginning, students understand that this is a student project. It is their responsibility to plan, implement, and evaluate the event. These activities meet course and program objectives related to group process and dissemination of health information to the community. Second-year students serve as role models for their first-year peers. Together, members develop material to share with fair participants. A chairperson selected by each group serves as group leader and as a liaison to the group mentor. Faculty and community members volunteer to serve as group mentors. Acting as consultants, mentors meet as needed with their group prior to the health fair, facilitating their topic research and group process.
In addition to the health-related content areas, students may select to participate in the coordinating and intake groups. Coordinating group members are responsible for the organization of the health fair, including public relations, supplies, and logistics. Members prioritize and implement requests from each student group for audiovisual equipment, tables, and disposable supplies, and are charged with keeping the fair within the allotted budget. The intake group admits participants to the fair. Members take health histories, measure height, weight, vital signs, and provide data entry and dissemination. All data obtained UOm clients during the fair are entered into a computer by group members. Students compare these data to any obtained during a previous health fair and disseminate that information to fair participants.
The fair is held on campus during the spring quarter. Creative signs, "footprints," posters, and coordinating group members guide participants through the health fair, adding a personal touch desired by many Native Americans. Healthy lifestyles (stress reduction, exercise, nutrition, drug and alcohol abuse, cholesterol measurement), cancer screening (self-examination information, warning signs), diabetes (information and blood sugar monitoringX sexuality (contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS), parenting (prenatal and parenting information, support groups), dental health (information and demonstration by students in the dental assistant program), immunizations, Native American culture and health beliefs (native foods and practices to fît healthy lifestyles), and consumer advocacy (support groups and service agencies) are topic areas presented each year.
Creative presentations and catchy displays are emphasized. For example, fair participants stopping at the diabetes education booth can play a baseball board game to learn about diabetes and native foods that comply with dietary recommendations.
All of the groups design and arrange their fair space based on the needs of group members and fair participants. Privacy is maintained when appropriate. Venipuncture and immunization are done in the college practice laboratory where hospital beds, refreshment, and disposable supplies are readily available.
Student performance is evaluated based on attainment of course objectives. Clinical instructors assess content presented and group participation based on mentor input and student self-evaluations, detailing how each learning objective was met. Students, mentors, and participants evaluate the fair using an instrument developed by the faculty. Input is reviewed and changes are implemented the following year as needed.
Through participation in the health fair, students successfully meet course and program objectives related to health teaching and group process. Faculty are able to provide a unique learning opportunity for students in a rural environment and te meet college objectives for community service. Community members have access to health information, health acreening, immunizations, and support in a nonthreatening and friendly environment.
- More, A. J. (1987). Native American learning styles: A review for researchers and teachers. Journal of American Indian Education, 27(1), 17-29.
- Swisher, K ( 1990). Cooperative learning and the education of American Indian/ AIaskan Native students: A review of the literature and suggestione for implementation. Journal of American Indian Education, 29(2), 37-43.