Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands: Nursing students teach preschoolers how to keep clean

Submitted by Meredith Guinness, Assistant Director, Media Relations on October 21, 2011

Sean Young, a student in Fairfield University’s nurse anesthesia program, crouched down at eye level with 3-year-old Eleni at a sink in the campus’ Early Learning Center (ELC).

“Is it fun to make bubbles?” he asked, as the little girl busily scrubbed her hands with soap. “It is, right?”

“Yeah!” said Eleni, smiling at her handiwork. “My mommy always makes me wash my hands every morning and night!”

Young and his fellow classmates – Amy Li, Phil Werman, and Nancy Wallick – visited the ELC in October to teach toddlers and preschoolers how to wash their hands properly to help prevent the spread of germs at home and in their colorful classrooms. Their visit was part of the community outreach component to their doctor of nursing practice program.

The students are taking “Epidemiology and Health Promotion” – a service learning course. Housed within the University’s Center for Faith and Public Life, the service learning program facilitates connections between focused academic learning, and meaningful and appropriate service that addresses needs identified by and with communities.

“It’s ultimately about teaching nurses that they can play a vital role in the community by determining a health problem and then by delivering an educational intervention that promotes healthy lifestyle choices,” says Assistant Professor Teresa Deshefy-Longhi, DNS, RN.

To keep their message memorable, the nursing students brought along the “Happy Hands House,” a decorated box equipped with a black light and a viewing window. Students had the children rub lotion on their hands to simulate germs that they could see under the black light. After they washed their hands, the purple “germs” magically disappeared. In addition, the students taught the children the “Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands” song – set to the melody of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” – to help them remember their lesson.

They also posted a photo of proper hand washing technique at toddler eye level on the bathroom door. The students will visit the children again in a few weeks to see if they remember what they were taught. Their final report will include the entire experience, which was organized by Dr. Barbara Welles-Nystrom, associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation and University liaison to the ELC.

“We’re here to promote good health and prevention of disease,” Young says. “And this is the type of place where you’re going to spread things the most, so it’s good to teach them early.”

Meg McCaffrey contributed to this story.

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