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'We're here to learn': Free community screenings give Winona State University students a dose of learning

Winona State University-Rochester nursing students get experience and a look at public health with community health screenings.

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Mariana Sorensen, left, and Mary Baker, right, staff the Rochester Public Library's wellness corner for a free health screening on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Both are second-year nursing students at Winona State University Rochester Center.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Clinicals, tests and roleplaying are all part of nurse training. However, even the best classroom scenarios don’t provide the experience of working with real patients.

Winona State University-Rochester nursing students get that experience holding community health screenings.

“This is a nice experience in that it’s open,” said Heather Schmidtknecht, associate professor of nursing at WSU-Rochester. “There’s no way really to prepare.”

On Feb. 28, Schmidtknecht supervised nursing students holding one of the screenings at the Rochester Public Library’s wellness corner.

“I'm only here if they need me,“ she said.


Nurses often deal with new situations every day in real life, she added.

“This has a little of that discomfort,” Schmidtknecht said.

The two students holding the screening said they appreciate the challenge of not knowing who might walk in the door and what they might need.

“Interacting is a big component of this,” said Mary Baker, WSU-Rochester nursing student. “Sometimes people just want to talk.”

“We’re here for that too,” added Mariana Sorensen, WSU-Rochester nursing student.

A Red Wing nurse says she left her full-time job because she couldn't do the job she expected of herself.

The screenings also help people learn what health care services are available and where and when to seek treatment.

“You really get the sense of what the health literacy of a community is,” Schmidtknecht. “These kinds of screenings can be a good way to get information out to people.”

Most of the people who come to the screenings are homeless. That means foot care is a common concern. The students noticed a patient had a hole in their sock when the patient stepped on a scale to be weighed. They gave the patient a new pair of socks to wear.


The experience also helps the students learn and understand the needs of the homeless in the community. As the two arrived to set up in the library, they noticed a line of people waiting to get inside to be someplace warm. It’s an opportunity for the students, Baker said.

Other screenings are held at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House, Salvation Army, Spark Children's Museum, The Landing and other locations.

Olmsted County staff members are working to determine whether purchase of former Southeast Rochester group home could provide needed family shelter space.

If necessary, the students will refer people who come to the screenings to other treatment or to social services if needed. However, most of their work is listening.

“We’re listening and learning about their experiences,” she said.

“We try to not make it seem overly official or intimidating,” Sorensen said. “We’re here to listen.”

Rhonda Taylor stopped by to have her blood pressure checked in the afternoon. She said she was a big supporter of health care and education and was glad the students were on hand to hold the screening.

Students will write a paper reflecting on their experiences and their perspectives on public health needs and resources in the community.

“Overall, these experiences have been fun,” Baker said.


If you go

What: Health screenings by WSU nursing students.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 14.

Where: Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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