Tuesday, June 4, 2024
Abi with Becky Wolfe and Shelby Cooklin
From left: Abi Winkleman, RN-BSN student; Shelby Cooklin (20BSN), Greene County Public Health RN; Becky Wolf, Green County Public Health director

Before RN-BSN student Abi Winkleman completed her community practicum, she was unfamiliar with public health. "My idea of public health was limited to just immunizations and the work they did with reopening after Covid," says Winkleman.  

Winkleman's practicum took place at the Greene County Public Health Department in her town of Jefferson, a small community in western Iowa.    

"The community health practicum is a 45-hour learning experience that students complete along with an online theory course," says Brenda Krogh Duree, PhD, RN, associate instructional professor at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. "Students are placed in their community to learn more about the community health resources where they live." 

During her practicum, Winkleman gained hands-on experience and learned more about rural public health, like the Greene County Community Health Improvement Plan and the community health assessment.  

The community health assessment is created by interviewing county residents to pinpoint what issues they think are most affecting their community. After gathering responses, the community health improvement plan is created to help resolve issues.  

"That was something that surprised me," Winkleman acknowledges. "It surprised me that it is so tailored to our specific needs in Greene County and that they're constantly trying to ensure they're meeting those needs." 

Winkleman also learned more about Greene County's Healthy Rides program.  

The program, created in 2020, provides non-emergency transportation for Greene County residents to and from medical appointments at Greene County Medical Center or McFarland Clinic in Jefferson at no cost. 

"I thought the program was so unique to our smaller town because we don't have taxis here. You know, it's rural," Winkleman explains. "If you pulled up Uber here, nothing would show up, so we have to work on filling those gaps to reduce those barriers." 

"It is important for the RN-BSN student to complete a practicum so they can apply the principles from their theory course," says Duree. "After students graduate, they often develop a passion for community health and volunteer to improve the health of their community." 

Winkleman, like other graduates, discovered that engaging with her community sparked a desire to pursue a local job. 

Greene County Medical Center
Greene County Public Health building

"I'm raising my kids here; this is my own community. These are my neighbors," Winkleman says. "[The practicum] made me spend that time with public health and learn how they're helping my community, and it made me want to try to use more of my expertise and license locally." 

"I love my community and the clinic and providers we have available to us," Winkleman says. "This practicum gave me a better understanding of all the community members who work tirelessly to better our county."  

Winkleman, who currently works as a telehealth nurse educator, plans to utilize her BSN education to advocate for more health education and additional resources for those in greatest need in her rural community. "I don't know what that looks like yet, but I'm excited to work in that direction," she says.