Nursing Students Promote Health at Downtown Campus

Eight nursing students organized and hosted two health events at BCIT’s downtown campus. Navi, Sophie, Renee, Kevin, Zoe, Madison, Stephanie, and Lexi recently completed their public health clinical rotation, and had the goal to inform students about current issues affecting the student population. They provided relevant conversations, activities, and resources about stress management, mental health, self-care, and the negative effects of smoking and vaping.

Many recent news stories have featured the rising numbers of vaping-related illnesses and deaths. After seeing large numbers of students smoking and vaping outside during breaks, the nursing students decided to focus on these vices for their first event.

Informal information booths and posters were non-judgmental and gave insight into harm reduction approaches. The nursing students did their best to engage passers-by in conversation about the topics and avoided wording and messages that could make students feel ashamed about their choices. The different posters explored facts and myths about vaping and smoking—including financial costs, free quitting smoking resources, and healthy alternative ways to cope with stress.

This event was made possible with the help of local organizations. The BC Lung Association provided great resources and giveaways for students (like reusable metal straws), BCIT Health Services gave free smoking cessation products, and the BCIT Student Association held their ‘Breakfast Club’, giving access to fresh fruit, yogurt and granola.

As part of an initiative to reduce the number of cigarette butts in the city’s waste, the nursing students collaborated with the City of Vancouver to hand out pocket-sized ashtrays.

The second health event focused on mental health, encompassing stress management, healthy coping strategies and taking time for self-care. As students, they understood the amount of stress and academic demands students face balancing school, work, and personal life.

A study in 2016 from the National College Health Assessment showed that of more than 43,000 Canadian university students, 66 percent reported feeling “very lonely” in the past year. About 30 percent of students felt “very lonely” within the past two weeks and a shocking 44 percent said they felt “so depressed that it was difficult to function” in the past year.

“We wanted to make this event informal and approachable. We accomplished this by creating an ambiance that was interactive and appealing. We used bright tablecloths,fun signs, and decorated the tables with plants, give-away items, and attractive resources.”.We played a mix of relaxing zen music and upbeat pop music that made you want to move. We also diffused lavender essential oils to fill the space with a pleasant aroma and shared that as a strategy to promote relaxation.”

– Stephanie Dekker

The nursing students were able to secure sponsorships and donations from local companies and organizations such as Lush, Davids Tea, Justea, the Crisis Centre, and the Canadian Mental Health Association. To make these giveaways meaningful they had the students share self-care and relaxation strategies in order to receive a product. The event also included a dog therapy session in a nearby classroom, so that students could enjoy a break with lovely pups.

Students who participated in the health events expressed interest in having more health and wellness opportunities at the downtown campus. While many interacted with the nursing students, there are some who remain unaware of BCIT & BCITSA health and wellness services, like doctors and counsellors.

Navi, Sophie, Renee, Kevin, Zoe, Madison, Stephanie, and Lexi believe promoting health and other services on the downtown campus would improve students’ health and enhances their engagement within the BCIT community.