Catherine Stephen, Joel Wilkinson with nursing students Zac Prestoe and Byron Davis at the UOW School of Nursing blood pressure stall on Friday 17 November. Photo: Catherine Stephen

UOW nursing students promote blood pressure awareness

UOW nursing students promote blood pressure awareness

Blood pressure checks for men encourage health conversations

Nursing students from the University of Wollongong (UOW) ran a successful pop-up blood pressure stall during an International Men’s Day luncheon, hosted by Healthier Illawarra Men (HIM) on Friday 17 November.

The stall at the event was organised by UOW Lecturer Catherine Stephen from the School of Nursing and run with the help of Joel Wilkinson, Practice Manager and registered nurse at Grand Pacific Health Centre at UOW.

During the event, two UOW nursing students, Zac Prestoe and Byron Davis, conducted blood pressure checks under the guidance of Catherine and Joel, both registered nurses, on attendees at the sold-out luncheon.

The stall aimed to raise awareness of the importance of blood pressure being a first step to improving overall health.

Catherine, who specialises in primary health care nursing, said the stall provided the opportunity for the nursing students to practice taking blood pressure in a non-clinical setting and perfect the art of conversation.

“The students were selected because they are community-minded, and I knew they would get a lot out of the opportunity. They brought their knowledge, skills, and life experience to the exercise,” she said.  

“There was lots of banter; being a predominately men's event, it was very collegial and an open space to discuss the big health issues. Zac and Byron were great at listening and responding to the attendees.

“It was incredible to be able to stand back and watch that valuable skill in action. That is their impact as future nurses. I was so proud of them and their professionalism.”

Zac Prestoe is a mature-age student with a passion for helping people. Looking for a career change, he enrolled at UOW and started working as an orderly at Sutherland Hospital to assist his study, before taking up his current position as an assistant nurse. Zac said the stall was a great extra curricular activity.

“It was a good learning experience for me. It was the first-time taking blood pressure of members of the public away from the clinical environment,” Zac said.

“I learnt more working at the blood pressure stall than sitting in a lab at Uni doing my friend’s blood pressure. I was having real conversations.

“When we had people coming in with high blood pressure, it was a good opportunity to learn what to do next. It was great to have Catherine and Joel there to give advice, when the blood pressure check sparked key questions about their health.”

Catherine’s PhD research is around better blood pressure control to prevent cardiovascular disease. Primary health care nursing plays a critical role in disease prevention and control to keep people healthy and she said running the stall allowed her research to come to light.

“The reception to the stall was overwhelming, attendees were lining up to get their blood pressure checked,” Catherine said.  

“One of the attendees and his partner had their blood pressure taken, and their reading was slightly elevated. They opened their phone, went on to the website Hot Docs and booked an appointment with their doctor for Monday morning.

“You normally get this ambiguity around what blood pressure numbers mean, but the attendees at the event were really engaged. 

“Primary health care nursing is evolving. Nurses play a huge role in meeting people where they are to enable people to live well longer. The stall provided an opportunity for the students to experience this approach.”

The event aimed to build communities of people, in particular men, who support each other on the path to improving mental and physical health wellbeing and to provide them with the resources and support necessary to lead healthier lives.

Catherine hopes the collaboration between UOW’s School of Nursing, HIM and the Barstool Brothers project, founded by UOW alumni Lachlan Stevens, will continue to foster further opportunities for students, enhance UOW’s visibility of nursing and promote men in nursing.

The nursing students were able to attend the luncheon through a ‘Pay It Forward’ ticket sponsored by WIN News. They networked with attendees and heard from guest speaker Brett Connellan who shared his lifechanging journey from shark attack victim to survivor.