Published January 21, 2021
UB nursing student Hannah Bogart needed a place to volunteer to fulfill the community service hours required for her degree. Her heart had always been close to working with special needs populations, so when she heard about Danceability’s request for help with their students, she thought it was a perfect match.
She was right. Bogart was one of 14 students — six from UB — who last semester helped conduct COVID-19 screenings of students and their parents as they arrived for classes in Danceability’s special needs studio in Depew.
“My time at Danceability was beautiful,” says Bogart, a student in the Accelerated Bachelor’s of Science, or ABS, nursing program and enrolled in NSG 410: Public Health Nursing.
“Everyone was so thoughtful and caring. All the dancers and staff greatly enjoyed each dance class, and it was so special to watch the joy on their faces when they walked in the building.”
Bogart and other students staffed the entrance table, asking health questions and taking the temperatures of the children and parents coming to Danceability classes.
“Many were so excited that they would try to run past our table, and we would have to remind them that they needed to come back and have their temperatures checked before dance class,” says Bogart. “Overall, it was a great experience. All the people I met there were wonderful.”
Score this another rewarding community service experience earned by UB nursing students. NSG 410 instructor Joann Sands, clinical associate professor of nursing, coordinated Danceability’s request for screeners for COVID-19, and other state and county compliance guidelines last September. But Sands is the first to say the students’ enthusiasm and expertise were the reasons why the arrangement turned out so well.
COVID-19 had prompted adjustments in the course, since many organizations were either not open, or not taking or limiting the number of volunteers, says Sands, an expert in the role of nurses in disasters.
“I received an email from Danceability stating they had a need for screeners/health checkers,” she says. “I forwarded this information to my NSG 410 students, who were required to complete service learning hours, and it took off from there.”
There were two-hour blocks of time several times through the week, Sands says, and students signed up for the time slots they were able to, or wanted to attend.
“Initially I thought we were going to have too many students because there was just that much interest from the students,” she says. “But I believe everyone that was interested in working with or completing their hours with Danceability was able to do so.”
The Danceability service hours fit in well with other School of Nursing programs offering students practical experience. Nursing students have worked at Hospice, Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center, Friends of Night People, Priscilla Project, Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross, among several others.
“This fit the need for service learning for the students, as it had a direct connection to public health and also filled a need from the community organization,” Sands says. “They met several course objectives, including collaboration, leadership and providing population-based nursing care. They collaborated with other professionals in achieving quality health outcomes by ensuring only those students and parents who were ill, febrile or did not clear the questionnaire (such as having recent exposure to someone COVID positive, recent travel) did not enter the studio.
“They also learned more about the special needs kids that utilize the studio and some of the resources available to them in the community.”
Maddie O’Neil, a senior nursing student in the ABS program, said her experience at Danceability showed her a side of public health she had not been exposed to.
“Every night I volunteered I was able to interact with children with disabilities,” O’Neil says, “and throughout the process I learned how to better engage with these children to make them feel comfortable around me — a stranger — and excited for their night of dance!
“A lot of them loved to chat once they warmed up, and would share stories with me about their days and overall excitement for the night. Seeing the way that the children interacted and looked out for one another was so touching and incredible.”
As with so many opportunities during the pandemic, there were limitations, Sands notes.
“Unfortunately, as the semester progressed and the COVID numbers started to increase,” she says, “the studio did have to place a pause on their classes again, so our students also had to ‘pause’ and were not needed, since classes were not being held, but they were all ready and willing to return once classes resumed.”
Sands, who is also teaching the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention course this spring, says she hopes the opportunity continues for her students to pursue their service learning hours at Danceability. If so, there is no shortage of student endorsements.
“You could tell the teachers and volunteers really care about their dancers,” O’Neil says. “As a volunteer, I felt extremely welcomed and comfortable. COVID was taken very seriously, as well. It was an incredible experience I am very grateful for!”