St. Mary’s County Lions clubs teamed up with College of Southern Maryland nursing students and HTii to conduct vision and hearing screenings for elementary and preschool children November 8 at Dameron Daycare II in Lexington Park, MD.
The event, which also included mini health education sessions conducted by the nursing students, screened 45 children, Lions officials said.
“If we find one child who has an issue, that makes it all worthwhile,” said Jerry Pope, vision and hearing chairman for the St Mary’s Lions. “We give them a copy of our test results to give to the doctor of their choice to do a more thorough exam.”
The children tested ranged from preschoolers who normally attend the daycare center and elementary school students through sixth grade who were there for the day because their schools were closed for the election.
Lions Club experts furnished the test equipment and trained the nursing students to operate it. The students then tested each of the children for vision and hearing issues. HTii employees helped daycare workers shepherd the children through the screening process and keep track of their paperwork.
St. Mary’s Lions test nearly 1,000 children a year, Lions officials estimated, roughly half preschoolers and the other half older students through the eighth grade, mostly from private schools. “Public schools have their own nursing staffs to conduct the tests,” Pope noted.
The experience using medical equipment with children was especially valuable, said first-year nursing student Rebecca Schramm. “Getting different age groups together like this helps in learning how to deal with children,” she said.
CSM nursing instruction takes a lifespan approach, covering children, young people and adults, said Rose Miller, professor of nursing at CSM.
“This fits in really well for the first-year students,” she said. “It’s good experience in a very stressful environment, like in a hospital.”
Bringing the nursing students to the daycare center to conduct the screening was a “a win-win for both,” said Miller. “Our students get the experience, and it’s a real service to Mary Norris, the daycare center director.”
Preschoolers, whose attention spans are too limited for standard vision and hearing tests, were screened only for “lazy eye,” a condition where one eye drifts out of alignment with the other, said Jess Davis of the Lexington Park Lions Club. “It’s caused by weak muscles in one eye,” he said.
“At age six and below most can be corrected with glasses that draw the eye back in line,” he said. “But the older they get, the harder it is to correct.”
Out of 21 preschoolers screened for lazy eye, there were six referrals to physicians for further testing, Lions officials said. Of the 24 older children given standard vision and hearing tests, there were two referrals in each category.
If the children’s families can’t afford glasses or hearing aids, the Lions are ready to help there too, Pope said. “The Lions will assist financially with whatever needs to be done.”
The Lions international organization has conducted vision programs since its founding in 1917. “Helen Keller spoke to the Lions in 1925 and told them to become ‘Knights for the blind’,” said Mark DeLuca, immediate past president of the Ridge Lions Club and an HTii project manager. “So it’s a big emphasis for all of our clubs.”
The Ridge Lions Club set up the daycare event, but money for the testing equipment came from all five St. Mary’s clubs – Leonardtown, Lexington Park, Mechanicsville, Hollywood and Ridge. Pope estimated the total cost to be approximately $35,000 for all five machines used – two for vision, two for hearing and one for lazy eye.
“We think this event is a prime example of local organizations – Lions, CSM, Dameron Daycare and HTii -working together for the good of the community,” DeLuca said.
Giving back to the community was the main reason for volunteering to help out, said HTii’s Bryant Joseph, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Our company has a lot of retired military, so the idea of duty is important,” he said. “We feel it’s our obligation to support the community that supports us.”