Fond memories of Coney Island have resonated throughout Greater Cincinnati since the park opened in 1886 and over the decades the additions of rides, concessions and the Sunlite Pool have become synonymous with a day of summertime fun for park goers of all ages.
What people tend to forget, however—at amusement parks and during other outdoor activities—is that an unprepared day in the sun can not only cut the fun short but also lead to potential health hazards.
That’s why this summer administrators at Coney Island granted faculty and students from UC’s College of Nursing permission to implement an informational program, designed by students pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), to benefit both employees and park patrons while also fulfilling clinical hours for a required BSN course called “Community as Partner.”
The message was threefold: the proper use of sunscreen, preventing heat stroke and heat exhaustion and informing patrons of Ohio’s recently amended booster seat vehicle restraint law. To deliver the messages, every Tuesday for eight weeks, six hours a day, students manned information booths at the poolside entrance to the park.
“There’s a very large population of people who come regularly at 9:30 a.m. every day; some of them are sun worshippers and stay out all day long,” says Beth Vonluehrte, a student who participated in the clinical experience.
Nine students were divided into three groups with each group addressing a different component. Vonluehrte’s group focused on the elderly, who are at great risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion when active and out in the sun.
“People don’t realize that as you age you don’t have the physiological response to sweat as readily as you do when you are younger and there is this false premise that you can jump in the pool to cool off when what you need is internal hydration,” she says.
The clinical experience, says Gordon Gillespie, PhD, assistant professor of nursing who taught the course, also gave students the opportunity to conduct some low-impact research and data gathering such as surveying teenage and young adult park employees on their use of sunscreen.
What they found, he says, is that pool employees tended to use sunscreen more often than their counterparts who worked in the amusements side of the park. Other research, he says, included visual checks of child restraint usage upon exiting the park, using guidelines in a collaboration between the college and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
One of the unexpected and added benefits to the experience, says Vonluehrte, was getting to interact with patrons and listening to their health history stories. By doing so, “you have the opportunity to interact and uncover what their real health needs might be.”
And by using the public address system, students were able to reach the audience at large with announcements such as, “The temperature is 84 degrees—remember to hydrate!”
“Coney Island was pleased to offer the nursing students access to Sunlite Pool patrons. Their message was well received by both customers and the staff ... and we would be happy to welcome them back next season,” says park representative Mary Schumacher.