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EHS students partner with local health agencies to educate peers and community

This semester, Elizabethton High School Health Sciences students collaborated with the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office to provide a plan for more student-friendly options pertaining to family planning education. Students in Lauren Meier’s Clinical Internship Capstone class recently met with and presented their semester long project ideas virtually to regional health officials.
The Teen Inclusivity Family Planning Services Project came about after a meeting with Regional Health Officials and EHS Leadership in Summer 2020. The main goal of this project was for students to evaluate the current Carter County Health Department clinic environment for teens and provide areas of improvement for the Family Planning Clinic. EHS students created surveys to gather data from their peers about the services provided by the county health departments overseen by the Regional Health Office. Two different groups of students worked throughout the semester to provide the feedback that was presented. One group focused on the common perceptions and misperceptions students have about their local health department, while the other presented on how local health departments could create a better in-person experience for young people. According to EHS student Susanna Digby, “We all came to the realization that the local health department is an outlet of help and a safe space for teenagers.”
Brittany Lewis, Family Health and Wellness Nurse Consultant with the Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, was very impressed with the students’ work and planned to present this project to state health officials. According to Lewis, “This virtual project is the first time something like this has been performed in our region and I was blown away by the ideas and the presentation the students gave. I foresee some of the students’ ideas being implemented locally in the Northeast Tennessee Region and possibly throughout the state with other health departments. Central Office leadership in Nashville has been so excited about this partnership and are encouraging other regions to perform the same activities with students.”
Students created sample brochures and reading material for teens, as well as presented ideas for a redesign of the Carter County Health Department waiting area and clinic rooms intended to cater more to teens. The students also implemented a dedicated space on the EHS school app with student-friendly information that will be accessible to all students. EHS student Kylee Evans shared her own thoughts on this first of its kind endeavor. “This project gave me a real insight on the family planning education needs in our own school and what our students know and don’t know.”
Students at Elizabethton High School continue to think and connect in the community outside the traditional classroom, even in these non-traditional times. EHS Instructor Lauren Meier knows the true value in her students’ efforts, and looks forward to continued community health partnership opportunities for her students. According to Meier, this project emphasized, “Our health department is a wonderful resource that is underutilized for family planning services for teens. Teenagers aren’t scared to have awkward conversations, but they often won’t initiate the conversation. It’s often the adults that shy away from these awkward topics. However, these conversations are extremely important, and it helps knowing that there are resources we can guide teens to when necessary.”