The Sanders IMPACT Practice Center’s Sleeper Center for Clinical Education and Wellness welcomed two classes of Harvard-Kent Fifth Graders to learn all about how nurses measure health.

A line of fifth graders chatted with nervous excitement as they made the brief walk from Charlestown’s Harvard-Kent Elementary School to the Charlestown Navy Yard. Their destination: MGH Institute’s Ruth Sleeper Center for Clinical Education and Wellness to be nurses for the day.

A partnership between Harvard-Kent and the Sleeper Center, the day was a chance for the 40 fifth graders to learn about the different factors that influence one’s overall health.

“I’m so glad to have the students back for our “Nurse for a Day,” program,” said Dr. Kathy Sabo, director of the Sleeper Center. “We had to pause during the pandemic, so it is wonderful to have them back on campus.

This is the third year of the “Nurse for a Day” program. On this day, students visited six stations, each created and presented by a nursing student currently enrolled in their public health clinical rotation. Stations included: mental health, introduction to personal hygiene, sleep best practices, nutrition, all about the heart, and why nurses measure height and weight during primary care visits.

It wasn’t the first time these Harvard-Kent students interacted with IHP ABSN students. The fifth graders have had students in their classrooms since they were in the first grade. Each week, public health clinical rotation students work in the school nurse’s office and present health education programming, but this was the first time the fifth graders were able to be on the IHP campus and get up close and personal with their student nurse’s “world.”

Hector Trujillo, ABSN ’23, sat in front of a green and purple tri-fold poster as he explained how a healthy sleep routine is essential to getting good grades and being good at your favorite sport. “Many of the students shared that they don’t usually get a good night sleep,” he said. “A lot of them are on their phones or playing video games right before bed so I’m just trying to share some alternatives.”

Trujillo suggests the students maintain a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, avoid caffeine after 3 p.m., limit strenuous activity after dinner, and develop their own relaxation routine.

Across from Trujillo, Aniston Miller, ABSN ’23 sat surrounded by neon fidget toys and mini bottles of lotion. “I’m going to show the students how once feelings come out, it can be hard to stuff them back in – but that’s okay! We all have feelings, and it is important to start talking about mental health at a young age.”

Miller had students note different coping skills that they can employ when feelings begin to become especially overwhelming.

“I like to talk to my dad,” said one boy and Miller lit up. “Yes!” she said. “It is always important to talk to a trusted adult. They’re your best resource.”

Students also had the opportunity to listen to each other’s heartbeats and understand how blood pumps through each chamber of the heart.

One station that got everyone talking was Lauren O’Neil, ABSN ’23’s “How Tall is a Fifth Grader?” There, students were able to see how they measured up against the heights of celebrities like Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Harry Styles. Once they had their measurements, O’Neil taught the students how to convert their heights from inches to centimeters and explained why tracking height is a good indicator for a child’s overall health. “If you aren’t growing,” she said, “we can look and make sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on.”

The Harvard-Kent students ended their time at the Sleeper Center by learning how to put together healthy meals and finding out which personal hygiene activities they should do daily.

As they headed back to school, students bubbled with excitement over what they had just taken part in.

“It was cool,” said one student.

“I like listening to the heart,” said another.

They will be back.

“We love having the kids here,” said Dr. Sabo. “It’s a great opportunity to be a neighborhood partner and expose both our students and their students to different aspects of nursing.”

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