Nursing students work with Cleveland youth in Music and Heart Program

First-year Case Western Reserve University nursing student Darren Ting moves his bow across the cello’s strings to play “Sarabande” from Bach’s Cello Suite #1. When he finishes, eight students from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing help eighth graders in Mark Bair’s music class at Miles at Cranwood School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) count their pulse.

The exercise is just one of the activities the nursing students designed for the Music and Heart Program they are teaching at the school.

Working with Miles students is part of the nursing students’ hands-on service learning that is woven into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing curriculum, says Laurine Gajkowski, a Case Western Reserve University instructor in community health nursing. The nursing school’s students volunteer about 20,000 hours annually in programs throughout the district.

Across the city at other CMSD schools, nursing students are designing and teaching health programs to young people. For this lesson, nursing students are collaborating with Miles Principal Sylvia Aziz and school nurse Mary Reville.

“We go to an elementary school every Friday to teach the children about health,” says Amanda Trefny, a North Olmsted native who aspires to be a nurse anesthetist.

Programs include lessons on nutrition, oral hygiene and basic physiology, but the students at Miles at Cranwood School decided to focus on the heart in celebration of American Heart Month in February.

With a growing number of young people experiencing high blood pressure and obesity, this lesson promotes ways to stay healthy, Gajkowski explains.

“We teach the kids how to take their pulse and have them take it at rest,” she says. Then students listen to Ting’s relaxing music and take their pulse again to monitor any changes. Finally, they go from resting to doing some jumping jacks. Again, they take their pulse to monitor how exercise raises the number of beats and keeps the heart muscle strong.

Nursing students also teach the children about the different parts of the heart and how it functions. When they are finished with the lesson, the children review what they have learned.

“The group is always looking for creative ways to teach students other than the old- fashioned lecture,” says Ting, who studied the cello for 13 years growing up in Millbrae, Calif.

Ting, who hopes to put himself through medical school working as a nurse, said one of the lessons students can learn from listening to music is that it can be a way to relieve stress and anxiety and lower their heart rate.

The Miles students take home a few lessons learned, Trefny says, and the nursing students learn a little something, too.

“We get to be teachers and teach children about their bodies and how to improve their health,” she says. “I’ve learned about all the things that nurses have to do, and they do a lot more than I thought before I started learning, experiencing and observing it.”