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Using a Site Visit to a Contaminated Location as a Focus for Environmental Health Education for Academic and Public Health Nurses


  • Ann S.N. Backus,

    1. M.S., is Instructor in Occupational Health, Director of Outreach, Community Outreach and Education Program, HSPH-NIEHS Center for Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts,
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  • Jeanne Beauchamp Hewitt,

    1. Ph.D., R.N., is Associate Professor Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Director, Community Outreach and Education Programs, NIEHS-funded Marine & Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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  • Stephanie M. Chalupka

    1. Ed.D., A.P.R.N., B.C., F.A.A.O.H.N., is Professor of Nursing, School of Health and Environment, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts
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Ann S.N. Backus, M.S., Occupational Health Program, Room 1-1402, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail:


ABSTRACT We describe a conference initiative that is distinguished by the use of a “community case study” to increase the knowledge and skills of nursing faculty and public health nurses in environmental health and to provide networking support to facilitate infusion of environmental health into nursing curricula and public health nursing practice. The Institute of Medicine's (1995) general environmental health competencies for nurses provided the conference framework. Woburn, Massachusetts, a Superfund site, served as the community case study to illustrate a complex environmental health problem. Over an extended period of time, Woburn was contaminated with multiple chemicals that eventually contaminated the drinking water supply; a cluster of childhood leukemia cases was linked subsequently to the Superfund site contaminants. A 6-hr interpreted walking and bus tour of the Superfund site enabled us to visit the premises of responsible parties, the vapor extraction fields, the capped Well H in the wooded wetlands, and to tour the affected neighborhood. This intensive, hands-on approach to learning environmental health content and skills that incorporated multiple learning strategies serves as a model for developing future conferences for public health nurses and nursing faculty.