Reflection on We’ll All Ride On
Service learning is not new to nursing, but our project was unique. We implemented our service-learning project during Fundamentals of Nursing—traditionally a lab and clinic-focused course with primary objectives surrounding skills development. Nursing skills, like Foley catheter insertion or initiating IV access, are integral parts of nursing education. The overall scope of nursing practice is much broader, though. Caring is at the core of nursing, and theories of caring are introduced during Fundamentals of Nursing. This makes the first semester nursing course a great fit for our service-learning project. Objectives for this project include fostering advocacy, social responsibility, and self-care.
Partnering with Momentum Bike Club, Clemson University Accelerated Second Degree nursing students rode bikes weekly with a group of underserved youth. Some of the students were involved in recruitment for a “Girl Power” bike group, specifically for middle-school girls. The recruitment process was challenged by cultural and socio-economic differences, which provided an excellent opportunity for students to self-reflect and gain first-hand experience of the relationship between cultural competence and care.
Our bike group fostered social responsibility and a culture of caring and advocacy among the Accelerated Second Degree nursing students. One student commented, “Before becoming part of the bike club, I was completely unaware of how important it really is to serve in your community.” Another commented, “Many of the girls have very different upbringings than I had, but it has taught me to appreciate every walk of life. Regardless of how we are raised, everyone wants to be loved. Choosing love despite the differences has been life changing.” I observed this culture of caring spill over into the classroom setting as well; this cohort of nursing students was cohesive and supportive of one another. I believe participation in service learning fostered this culture among the students as well as outside the classroom in both community and clinical settings.
Core concepts of social responsibility, caring, and advocacy are crucial developments in nursing education. Social barriers can impede health care, but a culture of caring can break down these walls. Nursing, by sheer numbers, is poised to make a huge difference. As one student stated, “There are many social barriers between the various communities. People tend to only spend time with people that share their interests, affiliations, and socioeconomic status. Momentum Bike Club helps to break down those barriers. This club showed me that I have just as much, if not more, to learn from the middle school riders as they do from me.” This student reflection, among others, indicates a culture of caring indicative of developing cultural competence.
Finally, I wanted to emphasize the importance of self-care early in our nursing curriculum. Self-care is important so that nurses are in the best condition physically, mentally, and emotionally while caring for our clients. Through the years, I have observed that nurses often delay selfcare at a huge expense. Incorporating exercise as a concept in Fundamentals of Nursing allowed students the opportunity to practice what we preach. Nursing school is demanding, but maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health is the key to success. Nurses who value and practice self-care translate into nurses who are well-equipped to meet the needs of their communities.
Service learning is a “win-win!” Students expressed appreciation for the opportunities through our bike club project and were willing to volunteer above and beyond the course’s requirements. Their willingness to volunteer demonstrates the success of fostering social responsibility, caring, and advocacy through this service-learning project. As the instructor, my take-home message is that service-learning opportunities should be implemented early in the nursing curriculum. This has been one of the best opportunities afforded to me as Clemson University School of Nursing faculty.