In fall 2020, Wichita State University public health sciences students stepped up to help the Student Wellness Center with COVID-19 testing in an effort to ease some of the uncertainty caused by the virus.
Most volunteer students are considering a career in health care and jumped at the applied learning opportunity.
“It gave me a different perspective on public health,” said Sarah Buie, a sophomore in health sciences, health management and psychology. “I got to talk to a lot of people and make sure they understood what was going on. It bolstered my communication skills, because I had to learn to talk to and explain to so many different types of people.”
Buie was one of 18 students from the Department of Public Health Sciences who volunteered in Student Health Services to help with the COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program.
“If you don’t have good people skills in health care, you’re not going to go very far,” said Sheryl McKelvey, office manager for Student Health Services. “It was so good to work with students who were really motivated to do this.”
Department of Public Health Sciences
The students completed 160 hours of volunteer work by handing out information packets and test kits and explaining the saliva test. When people returned the test, after completing it outside the building, the students took receipt of the tests, which were processed off-site.
“It was interesting to be on this side of a health institution during a pandemic,” said Funto Adubi, a December 2020 health science graduate. “This was my first time working in something involving health and having to relate to other people. I was able to give people the test and explain stuff. People that had questions, I was able to answer questions.”
Students in the Department of Public Health Sciences complete a professionalism portfolio that includes scholarship, volunteerism, service learning, professionalism and inter-professionalism activities.
“We immediately saw this as an opportunity for applied student engagement,” said Dr. Amy Drassen Ham, clinical professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “We find it more and more critical that we prepare our students for working in real health-care settings, by putting them in team-based learning experiences that, in effect, allow them to improve things like communication and engage in problem-solving skills.”
She said that the department wants to move students out of their learning silos and give them opportunities to learn about, from and with professionals.
“That helps prepare them for their careers that require lots of adaptation in this rapidly changing field,” Drassen Ham said.