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As a 2008-09 Greater Philadelphia Schweitzer Fellow, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing student Ashley Darcy had a vision: she wanted to empower mothers (and expectant mothers) living at Jane Addams Place to make healthier choices for themselves and their children.

With the cooperation and support of Jane Addams Place staff — as well as the guidance of academic mentors Marilyn Stringer, PhD, CRNP, RDMS and Madeline M. Perkel MSN, CRNP — Darcy set out to gain the trust of the women at the shelter, and develop and administer a health education curriculum focusing on healthy habits appropriate for women, infants, and children.

That’s exactly what she did, drawing on the expertise of Penn School of Nursing faculty to deliver educational workshops surrounding prenatal health behaviors, basic infant care, infant CPR, postpartum education, contraception, and general women’s health.

“Throughout the rest of my nursing career, I hope to engage women
in discussions that will enable each of them to better understand their healthcare choices and make informed decisions about their health and the health of their families,” Darcy told us at the conclusion of her Fellowship year.

Today, Nurse.com has a terrific feature on the continued impact of Ashley’s Schweitzer project, which has been sustained and expanded by Stringer and her colleagues:

Stringer, who served as Darcy’s faculty adviser during the fellowship, made sure the program continued after the yearlong fellowship by teaming with Philadelphia native Pamela Mack-Brooks RN, MSN, CRNP, nurse manager, labor and delivery, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“[Darcy] transitioned us in and we went right from there,” Mack-Brooks said. “We just thought it was a great match.”

The program initially focused on using education to fight high preterm birth rates in the area. Globally, said Stringer, preterm birth rates are at 9.6%. The rates are 12.8% in the U.S. and 14.8% in West Philadelphia.

“In that [West Philadelphia] community, there are pockets that are worse than that,” Stringer said. “So that’s why we care.”

According to Nurse.com, the program is paying off:

“The women come,” said Stringer, an associate professor in women’s health nursing and a clinician educator at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Penn’s Health System. “They’re showing up with questions, and they’re engaged during the sessions. Those are the pieces we can measure.”

Read the full Nurse.com piece here.

To support the Greater Philadelphia Schweitzer Fellows Program and Fellows like Ashley Darcy, click here.