community health - Oxley College of Health Sciences

community health

TU nursing students address community health in the midst of the pandemic

With COVID-19 raging and all in-person learning replaced with virtual instruction, faculty in The University of Tulsa’s undergraduate nursing program had to quickly figure out a way to replace clinical rotations while still ensuring their students received a high-quality, relevant education. The ingenious result was to devise a four-week model for juniors in the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program examining client education in the context of a pandemic.

Quarantine poster made by BSN juniors

“This solution made additional sense,” noted Chapman Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing Angela Martindale, “given that this is the semester when those students focus on community health.” Martindale taught the course alongside her colleagues Lee Anne Nichols and Cassandra Barrow, both of whom also had a hand in shaping the new direction.

“From social distancing to sickness, COVID-19 has created a spark and lit sequential fires of change within me,” said Adonijah Young, one of the students in the course. “Being given the opportunity to create educational tools to instill knowledge in the community was an amazing experience.”

Young’s sentiments are echoed by fellow student Emily Thomas, who said the community rotation enabled her “to put my feet in other people’s shoes and think critically about what they are feeling and thinking during this time of uncertainty. I am confident the work I did and the skills I developed will benefit me in my future career as a nurse.”

COVID-19 and social distancing

The first week introduced students to the origin and context of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Students reviewed a simulation PowerPoint deck and completed a World Health Organization module on the topic. “Our students wrapped up this first stage by taking a short quiz and earning a certificate of completion,” explained Nichols.

Healthy lifestyle during quarantine posterWeek 2 involved four simulations covering the COVID-19 pandemic and explored the impact of social distancing at local, state, national and global levels. The epidemiological curve was examined at each of those levels, as well as the pandemic risk mitigation plan for both Oklahoma and the United States to flatten the curve. “A main element of our exercises this week was to explore the nursing perspective at each level,” said Barrow. “In support of that goal, our students’ clinical activity was to identify between 5 and 10 ineffective and between 5 and 10 adaptive responses to social distancing right here in Tulsa.” The students then worked in small groups to create PPT decks that shared their findings and presented a nursing diagnosis.

Nursing, pandemic ethics and public education

“During Week 3, students worked in pairs or groups of three to develop a white paper, suitable for the public, on nursing and pandemic ethics,” Martindale noted. These drew on assigned readings and discussions dealing with topics such as the role of nurses who lack personal protective equipment when taking care of patients who have COVID-19. The course wrapped up with a case study/simulation exercise. For this, students wrote individual care plans dealing with an aggregate of patients battling COVID-19. “Having community health online was a very good learning experience for me because I was able to research topics concerning our community on my own and find information on how we can help,” said student Averee Dubach.

Coronavirus educational posterOther assignments included developing educational tools for homeless people, families with children at home, the elderly and patients in clinics. “By the time the rotation was over,” remarked Nichols, “we had over 84 brochures developed to teach aggregates of clients affected by the pandemic.” Many of these brochures will be shared with community partners as our society continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impacts: From the personal to the global

The final assignment involved having each student write a reflective paper discussing how the pandemic had affected health at the local, state, national and global levels. They were also tasked with writing about how social distancing had impacted them personally. As Carol Coffman put it, “Although finishing my junior year of nursing school away from people was not ideal, it was necessary and allowed me to reflect on my role and take responsibility as a future nurse.”

Student Emma Rutter summed up the profound impact of the reimagined clinical rotation on her development as a caring, effective health care professional: “As nurses, we must remember that health is not singular. If our patients are ailing, our community is ailing. We learned how to advocate for an entire aggregate and plan how to take steps to affect the masses. The lesson I am most thankful for in this community rotation is: Your community needs you, and you most definitely need your community. There is always hope when there are those who continue to try.”

Students Emma Rutter, Trenton Hazelton and Carol Coffman wearing blue scrubs
BSN juniors Emma Rutter, Trenton Hazelton and Carol Coffman in the days before the COVID-19 pandemic

If you would like to inquire about using some of the BSN students’ educational resources at your organization, please contact Wendy Palmer at the TU School of Nursing (


Overseas exercises: Recent grad reports on his internship in South Africa

University of Tulsa students participate in experiential learning activities that quite often involve travel to other countries. In this story, you’ll get a first-hand look at some of the activities Braydon Rennie participated in during his internship in South Africa.

By Braydon Rennie (BS ’19)

One of the many outstanding features of the exercise and sports science program (EXSS) at TU is the requirement that each student complete two internships during their final year. During my final fall semester internship, I worked with Associate Professor Roger Kollock as a research assistant in his Biomechanics Research Laboratory. I’m a hands-on learner, so this experience enabled me to develop a far better understanding of how to assess human mechanics and how that can be applied to real-world conditions.

Due to a few complications, I wasn’t able to complete the second internship during the normal spring semester. Thanks to the support of my department head, academic adviser, athletic director and TU’s global education adviser, however, I got permission to complete the internship during the summer. So, for my final three credits, I packed my bags and traveled nearly 9,000 miles away to Cape Town, South Africa!

Community health through exercise

The organization I worked for in Cape Town was Community Health Intervention Programmes (CHIPs). The focus of CHIPs is to improve the health and well-being of South Africans through the implementation of exercise programs for all age groups. The CHIPs staff works on a teach-the-teacher model in order to reach as many individuals as possible, most of whom live in underprivileged communities.

My first experience with CHIPS was at a primary school where I participated in an exercise program we had designed for the teacher to implement. I had the privilege of participating in the initial sessions with the kids, and I was struck by the minimal amount of time and resources that were dedicated to them.

Braydon Rennie leading a HealthNutz session with a local primary school in South Africa
Leading a HealthNutz session with a local primary school

Within the first week, it was clear that this would be a common narrative. Many of the schools I visited did not have an organized time for exercise. Even at the ones that did, the amount of time allotted varied greatly. Furthermore, there were no designated physical education (PE) teachers or consistency in the materials used in the sessions. Comparing this to my experience at school – which included hour-long gym classes every day, access to plenty of sports equipment and registered PE teachers – I realized how fortunate I had been.

Nevertheless, seeing how many games and exercises the South African children could perform using only a bean bag and a Hula-Hoop reminded me how simple and lighthearted exercise can be. Two motivators I took away from this experience were that having a good attitude is far better than having good equipment and that exercise is not a right, it is a privilege. Since then, I have continued to challenge others to think the same way.

My own time to play

While I worked hard each week in Cape Town, on the weekends I also had the opportunity to enjoy fun group excursions. These included visiting Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner; hiking Table Mountain; going on safari; and walking with penguins. These were all things I had never done before and, prior to this internship, had never even considered a possibility.

Braydon Rennie with an elephant in South Africa
Walking with elephants

During my internship, I was endlessly motivated to try new things because, well, “when’s the next time I’ll be in South Africa?!” That question became our group mantra and was the catalyst for everything from swimming with great white sharks to trying a Gatsby sandwich (which is, btw, unreal!).

There is something about being in a foreign place with new people that ignites an innate curiosity and desire to explore. I was overwhelmed by the possibilities and by how much I was able to learn in only three weeks, because I was just so interested in everything!

Fresh perspectives

Now that I’m back home, I have made an effort to tap into this travel mentality in order to avoid falling into a boring daily routine. I find this allows me to look at life from different angles to get the most of every opportunity, regardless of how monotonous or insignificant it may seem.

Studying abroad is something I believe every student should experience or, at the very least, consider. There are certain things that can be learned only while in a foreign, unfamiliar place, whether it be career related or self-growth. I can’t thank enough TU and the staff who made my internship in South Africa possible, and I hope my story encourages other students to pursue a similar program.

Braydon Rennie watching the sun set from Lion's Head, South Africa
Watching the sun set from atop Lion’s Head


(Editor’s note: If Rennie’s story whet your appetite for traveling and learning abroad, check out Casey Seitz’s account of his spring break course in Ireland. TU’s Center for Global Education can help students plan exciting and insightful overseas education adventures.)





About the author

Braydon Rennie on top of Table Mountain in South Africa
On top of Table Mountain

Hailing from 150 miles north of Toronto, Braydon Rennie completed his bachelor of science in exercise and sports science in 2019. Now back home in Canada, Rennie is involved with ThinkMotion, an organization that finds creative and fun ways to challenge children physically and mentally through PE class. He is also working full time with a construction company to save up for a master’s program in kinesiology, which he plans to start in the fall of 2020. With his education and experience, Rennie hopes to build an exercise-programming career in youth sports.