Students Provide Health Screenings to Older Adults in Dracut

Nursing students standing in front of Mobile Health Unit
Asst. Prof. Lisa Marchand, staff member Maria Curtin and nursing students Meghan Hill, Lilli McNeice, Tess Robinson, Riley Mello and Andrew Heindselman stand in front of the Mobile Health Unit at the Dracut Council on Aging.

By Karen Angelo

The Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences recently rolled out its Mobile Health Unit, a 34-foot recreational vehicle that travels to local communities to promote health and wellness. 

Faculty, staff and students visited the Dracut Council on Aging in April. Nursing students performed blood pressure screenings and educated more than 60 older adults about hypertension, healthy eating and exercise. 

“Our vision for this mobile health unit has come to life,” says Zuckerberg College Dean Shortie McKinney. “We wanted to take our health promotion and education on the road to the local community while providing our students with practical experiences.” 

Large visuals on the vehicle show students working in various health professions, with the line “On the Move for Better Health” emphasizing the goal to improve access to care. 

Clinical Asst. Prof. of Nursing Lisa Marchand is working with faculty members on plans to involve students from all health sciences disciplines to incorporate Interprofessional Education (IPE) into teaching. IPE simulates actual health care situations to prepare students to work in a team-based environment. 

“We are bringing preventative care services to where the people who need it are located,” says Marchand. “By involving students from all of our majors, we can provide a holistic approach to collaborative care.” 

Mobile Health Unit 34 foot recreational vehicle
The 36-foot Mobile Health Unit will transport students, faculty and staff to community centers so that they can provide preventative care services to where people are located.
The plan is to transport faculty and students to community centers in the Merrimack Valley and care for people in those facilities, in the vehicle and outside under an awning. Students may administer vaccines, screen for hypertension, provide nutritional counseling, lead an exercise class or share tips on staying healthy. 

Nursing major Andrew Heindselman, who participated at the event in Dracut, enjoyed interacting with the older adults. “Having the Mobile Health Unit enhances the quality of care that UML can provide to its community and offers students the unique ability to bring basic level health screenings and care to the people,” says Heindselman, who serves as a student nursing ambassador. 

The inside of the mobile health unit will be outfitted with blood pressure screening areas, lab space and counseling areas. The outside of the vehicle can be used for gait analysis and fall risk evaluations. 

The vehicle will also be used to promote health professions – careers that are in high demand. Staff and faculty will travel to school-based health centers, health fairs, community events, high schools and community colleges. 

Funded by a grant in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the vehicle was used to promote the nursing profession to young people in diverse and underserved areas in the Merrimack Valley.