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Libba McMillan wants Auburn University nursing students to know how to communicate to patients without saying a word.
To explore the concept of health promotion in the course, Professional Concepts in Nursing, the assistant professor has had students use their creativity and nonverbal communication skills to make posters on various health issues. It was only an academic exercise until two semesters ago when McMillan started to collaborate with Eric Smith, director of the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness Services.
Now the posters are reviewed by Smith for his office to possibly use throughout campus.
"This poster was an attempt to be the vehicle to get students to look at health promotion, but add another dimension to it," explained McMillan. "It took what was just a normal class assignment and added some richness to get students to consider their approach in promoting health. It's been a great experience for the students, but also to see those efforts rewarded and utilized in a useful product."
Auburn's nursing students have come to expect their faculty to offer them ways to apply classroom knowledge to real world settings.
"What we are learning in class, we are putting it into practice in clinical experiences, in labs," said junior Mac Mosher. "We're not just writing an essay, but putting it into practice with the poster. That's really been the beauty of nursing school. It's not just about learning it, but putting it into practice."
The goal isn't for her students to be professional graphic designers, but rather to be able to communicate to different audiences via various mediums. McMillan said the versatility is important for future nurses as the health care system becomes more patient-centered.
"One of the things we talked about in health promotion is you are never going to be all things to all people, but you have to be mindful of your client, whether it's a patient, a student or a parent at Camp War Eagle," she said.
Mosher believes a graph on his poster was an ideal way to share the correlation between alcohol consumption and weight gain. He was so successful in the assignment, Smith's office will likely use the concept on a similar poster around campus. About 12 student posters were selected for the honor at the end of the fall semester. Each student received a T-shirt from Smith's office.
Junior Jordan Cox said she got the idea for her poster after she learned that some doctors were starting to vaccinate young men for the human papillomavirus before they went to college. She called her research "enlightening" and wanted to spread the word. Cox said she deliberately labeled her poster, "The Boys, the Birds, the Bees and HPV," in hopes that the catchy title would be enough to grab the attention of male students.
"It was really short, sweet and to the point, just how it affects men and why they need to be vaccinated," she said. "I just wanted them to know the facts right off the bat."
Junior Mary Margaret Abernathy, creator of "You Take My Breath Away," a look at how tobacco products affect different parts of the body, commended Smith for using college students to relate issues such as sexual health, drugs, nutrition and alcohol to other college students.
She also commended McMillan for challenging nursing students to not only research the broad health topics, but to determine what key points were to be included within the space of a poster.
McMillan said she deliberately gave the students general topics so they could have the creative latitude to explore whatever interested them.
"Just like in clinical practice, you don't have all day to speak with people so your words have to be very meaningful, very relevant, and that's what these posters were trying to capture," she said. "It's getting out the need-to-knows, not necessarily the nice-to-knows, which come with time. It's meant to spar an interest in people to manage their own health."
Last Updated: Dec. 16, 2011