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The School of Nursing has partnered up with a West Philadelphia women’s shelter in order to provide women valuable health lessons that will benefit them in the future.

Verizon recently awarded the Nursing School a grant, which it plans to use to shift the focus of the women’s shelter program to domestic violence, according to Pamela Mack-Brooks, nursing manager of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

The Verizon check will go toward a year’s worth of education for the residents of the West Philadelphia shelter.

Since last fall, the Nursing faculty has included student volunteers in this educational program with the goal of bringing the community together to provide health-awareness education.

The Nursing School goes to the shelter and does a health promotion session once a week, according to Marilyn Stringer, professor of Women’s Health Nursing and leader of the education program.

Students run the sessions together with nurses, and they teach everything from flu prevention and nutrition to sexual education, Stringer said.

There is usually an ice-breaker in the beginning, followed by an assessment of what the women already know about a topic.

Finally, the students and nurses carry out an already established lesson plan on how to teach the health objectives of that particular session, Stringer explained.

The women who attend the shelter usually stay there for three months or less.

“This program helps nurses to leave the hospital and go to the shelter to see what resources are available to these women,” Stringer said, adding that the program hopes to expand to other shelters.

“This type of project shows that we all have community interests at heart. We’ve come together to meet the staff and patients’ needs,” Mack-Brooks said.

In order to give these women the best advice, it is necessary to modify the way that nurses and nursing students educate the women in the shelter, Stringer said. There is also a need to understand the circumstances at home.

Nursing sophomore Brenda Achille held a work-study job at the shelter last summer and fall under the supervision of Laura Scalise, registered nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“There is a lot of focus on helping schools and tutoring, but shelters can go under the radar at Penn. Adults also need help and empowerment,” she said.

Achille added that her job in the summer was to design the lesson plans to teach at the shelter in the fall.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Scalise said. “Anyone who’s an expert on a certain topic or wants to be involved is welcome.”

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