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Northwestern Memorial Nurses Teach Local Elementary Students the Importance of Hand Hygiene

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June 5, 2009

Chicago -

Demonstrations, puzzles and games help students learn how to prevent illness  

Kristen Mills, RN, urology surgery, dispenses hand sanitizer to students during a lesson in hand hygiene.
“Happy birthday to you,” sang the exuberant first graders, excited by the afternoon surprise to their classroom. Only today, they sang not for a birthday celebration, but following guidance from Julia Dziak, RN, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who used the song to demonstrate how long it takes to effectively lather or rub away germs from their hands. As Dziak led the students in song, fellow nurse Kristen Mills, a urology surgery nurse, traveled from desk to desk to dispense hand sanitizer.

“Think about all of the things you’ve touched today…on the school bus, in the classroom, in the restroom,” said Mills. “Germs are everywhere, so it’s important to wash your hands often to help make sure those germs don't get a chance to make you or someone else sick.”

Dziak and Mills were among a group of 30 nurses from Northwestern Memorial who visited Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood to teach young students the importance of good hand hygiene in preventing the spread of germs. In addition to hand washing demonstrations, students were provided crossword puzzles on hand cleanliness and quiz worksheets to test their knowledge.

“Given the recent prevalence of colds and flu in the area as well as nationwide, we felt it was a good time to reinforce the importance of proper hand hygiene,” said Talcott principal Craig Benes. “The nurses from Northwestern Memorial helped our students understand this, while making the lesson fun.”

While younger students learned the importance of clean hands, middle school students had the opportunity to learn about the field of nursing. Tisa Joy, RN, a heart failure pulmonary nurse, and her mentor, Emily Powers, RN, a medicine unit nurse, described a typical day of work in their profession and answered numerous questions from intrigued students. Joy and Powers also explained the many different types of jobs that nurses can have, from hospitals and clinics to schools, the military and in nursing homes.

The nurses’ visit to Talcott was part of a recently launched new hire socialization program at Northwestern Memorial, which pairs newly hired nurses with tenured nurses to provide mentoring support during their first year of employment with the hospital. In addition to neighborhood tours and group outings, the program incorporates community service projects to help orient new nurses to the diverse communities that Northwestern Memorial serves.

“It was truly gratifying to see the impact we had on students during the time we spent in their classrooms,” said Joy. “I feel lucky to be able to volunteer my time through this program, and look forward to continuing to serve local communities throughout my nursing career.”

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Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011