With the support of a grant from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, Montclair State University’s School of Nursing is serving the community through a cardiac risk screening and education initiative for residents of primarily underserved communities in the greater Newark area.
As part of the pilot initiative, School of Nursing faculty and students have held 28 screenings serving more than 250 community members. The communities being served are those where the most prominent health disparities exist, and in which residents have high morbidity or mortality risk from heart disease. Taking place in community spaces as well as on the University campus, the most recent screening was held on April 28 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Orange.
“Our goal is to reduce and prevent cardiac disease by offering free screenings at local events to identify persons at risk, provide preventive education and refer at-risk individuals to affordable, appropriate follow-up care,” says School of Nursing Dean Janice Smolowitz. “We are grateful for this opportunity to address health inequities, while preparing our student nurses with crucial experiential learning in local communities.”
Associate Nursing Professor Mary Elizabeth Duffy manages the screenings and sees the benefit of being directly in the community. “The screenings provide hands-on, community-based training to our nursing students … It is wonderful to see our School of Nursing faculty and students working together to provide this service to educate community members about their risk for heart disease and the measures they can take to prevent it.”
“With the tremendous dearth of skilled nurses, Montclair State University is taking concrete steps to accomplish two important goals: providing care for patients today, and training the future nursing workforce in New Jersey,” says Michael Schmidt, executive director and chief executive officer of The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. “The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey is proud to partner with Montclair State University to support this innovative pilot initiative.”
Montclair collaborated with the West Orange Health Department to inform constituents of the screenings. Individuals were able to have their blood pressure, cholesterol and other risk
factors tested and have confidential healthcare conversations. They also received referrals to healthcare providers, along with follow-up after the event.
For Arielle Falcone ’23, who completed the pre-licensure Master of Science in Nursing in January, the screening event provided another opportunity to help others. “I am always grateful for volunteer opportunities, especially when it is directly beneficial and we can connect individuals with critical health resources.”
Falcone, who started her career working in research, neurology and computational psychiatry, enrolled in Montclair’s Nursing program because she wanted to have a direct impact on patient care. “During the pandemic, I felt I could do much more for the health of others and knew it was time for me to pursue nursing.” She is now licensed as a registered nurse in New Jersey and New York and works on an inpatient oncology unit, bone marrow transplant, at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Emily Woznick ’23, another recent graduate of the pre-licensure Master of Science in Nursing program, said the experience helped prepare her to be efficient in managing a large volume of patients and to navigate how to communicate and take care of a patient who doesn’t speak the same language. “It was terrific to be able to get the community experience,” she says. “This added practice to serve those in the community, especially those who may rely on it as their only check-up, was very rewarding.”
“I am grateful for this experience … it has shown me that there are so many people who I can help,” says Jennifer Richards, a junior pursuing her pre-licensure Master of Science in Nursing. “The fact that I can offer information to help another person to make changes to their diet and lifestyle that will benefit them for the rest of their life is wonderful.”
For students and faculty, the opportunity to serve is paramount.
“With joy and humility, we partner with our communities to educate and give access to healthcare,” shares Associate Nursing Professor Yanick Joseph. “As nurse educators, we pass on the legacy to our students by building community and doing selflessly the work required to maintain the social contract we inspire to enforce in all we do – to infuse active hope and collective healing.”