Yorkton Nursing students organize HIV awareness activities

Nursing students truly do make a difference in the communities where they study and practice. The most recent example is the effort put forth by Yorkton nursing students, who came together to offer a variety of activities in Yorkton and Kamsack during HIV Awareness Week. Collaborating with Sunrise Health Region (now the Saskatchewan Health Authority) and Parkland College, fourth-year nursing students, led by Jillian Henry-Wilkinson, organized and hosted wonderful events that will impact the health of the entire community.

Inspired by an initiative that was previously organized by Sunrise Health Region, but due to funding difficulties was no longer able to operate, nursing students Jillian Henry-Wilkinson, Taylor Trost, Courtney Severson, Dara Yacishyn and Presley DeCock were able to bring back the availability of a condom dispensary at Parkland College’s Main Campus in Yorkton. The students hosted a pizza luncheon as a fundraiser and partnered with LifeStyles Condoms to get the pilot project off the ground. The first dispensary is set to be launched in the New Year, alongside two dispensaries donated in-kind from the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Given the nursing students are in their final year and will be graduating soon, they hope both future nursing students and students studying at Parkland College will continue to maintain the upkeep of the dispensaries going forward.

The same day the nursing students hosted the pizza lunch fundraiser, they also created an opportunity to connect students at Parkland College with health professionals. They coordinated to have public health nurses from Sunrise Health Region offer HIV and Hepatitis C testing, give flu shots, and provide access to education materials about Naloxone, a medication used to the block the effects of opioids for the prevention of drug overdose.

Educational posters were also displayed around Parkland College to bring awareness to HIV, sexually transmitted infections and contraceptives. Students were given free condoms, pamphlets providing further information and were encouraged to support community awareness of HIV through the wearing of red ribbons.

“Many students and teachers stopped by the tables to ask us, the nursing students, questions regarding the information we were providing,” said Jillian Henry-Wilkinson. “Overall, we felt the event was a huge success.”

During a clinical placement this fall, the same fourth-year nursing students were given the opportunity to work alongside New Beginnings Community Outreach Center in Kamsack. During the students’ first meeting with staff at New Beginnings, the nursing students inquired as to which donations they needed most. Without hesitation, the staff stated that food was something they always need, as they feed approximately 100 people per day. On Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, the nursing students, with help from representatives from the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing, Sunrise Health Region and New Beginnings staff, hosted a hot lunch for clients at New Beginnings. The lunch gave the nursing students the opportunity to provide food for the individuals, but also to present HIV awareness information to the community as well. The event included presentations about basic HIV information and encouraged group discussions with local peer support workers from Sunrise Health Region.

The nursing students would like to extend their thanks to the individuals who attended these HIV awareness events and made them the success they were. They hope in bringing this information forward that they have inspired participants to pass along the knowledge to others in Yorkton and surrounding communities.

“We would like to thank the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing for supporting these student planned events that were aimed at increasing the health of our communities,” said Henry-Wilkinson. “We would also like to thank our clinical instructors, Sunrise Health Region, Parkland College and New Beginnings staff and volunteers who helped to make these events happen. And we must acknowledge Save-On-Foods in Yorkton and Prairie Grain Bakery in Kamsack for their gracious donations and LifeStyles Condoms for stocking the dispensaries when the program launches.”

This story was originally published on the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Nursing website.