When CentraCare Health System sponsored its 12th Annual Women’s Health 101 exposition this spring, medical assistant associate degree students from Minnesota School of Business-St. Cloud (MSB) were on hand to provide free blood pressure checks and education to nearly 500 participants.
The primary goals, according to Robyn Lauermann, the instructor for the Patient Care Sciences course at MSB, were to get students acquainted with patient interaction, encourage communication and increase students’ confidence.
The medical assistant degree students agree that they learned valuable women’s health lessons each step of the way toward meeting these goals at the expo.
- Patient Interaction: Medical Program Chair Lisa Smith estimates that students administered 300 blood pressure checks throughout the day. Medical assistant student Angela Spoden admits it was a very busy day but says that it gave her the chance to raise awareness about blood pressure and talk to women about what influences their blood pressure. Jennifer Czech adds, “I think it is helpful to work with others rather than classmates. It gives you more practice.”
- Communication. Czech found that communication could be a challenge. “They get upset if you tell them it [blood pressure] is high,” she explains, “but we would tell them that with all the walking around and excitement, blood pressure can elevate.” Spoden practiced asking questions such as “What is your normal blood pressure?” She also discussed tips for controlling blood pressure and gave reassurance when it was high. Lauermann finds communication skills to be as important—and perhaps as difficult—as the actual medical process of taking the blood pressure itself. “Students sometimes needed a push,” she explains. “I had to say, ‘Smile and go talk to them.’”
- Confidence. Everyone agrees that gaining confidence was the winning lesson of the day. Medical assistant student Britanny Gadacz believes “my future career depends on getting more comfortable with people [I] don’t know.” The Health 101 Expo gave her plenty of opportunities to do just that. Alicia Fisher concurs, “I started out really scared. Practice makes me more confident.” After seeing literally hundreds of women that day, students left the expo much more self-assured than when they arrived.
Spoden says that it was valuable to be a participant as well as a practitioner. She suffered a stroke at the age of 29 and has since recovered, so she visited the booths in order to learn more about being proactive about her own health.
Deb Paul of CentraCare finds that women appreciate the low-cost health education that they receive each year at the expo. Some speakers and health screenings are invited back each year because they are so popular. She adds they appreciate Minnesota School of Business students doing the blood pressure checks.”There’s always a line,” she notes.
Encouraging women to “spring into good health” proves to be an important message for all!