JU nursing making an impact during Cervical Cancer Prevention Month

Students take to the beach to raise money for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer


Christina Kelso

Senior JU nursing major volunteer Melissa Cowart stands on the sands of Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park Jan. 25, while behind her, one of the first runners makes it to the finish line during the Northeast Florida Nurse Midwives Cervical Cancer Awareness 5K Fun Run/Walk. ​

Cheers shattered through the morning chill on the beach of Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park Jan.25 as a band of 72 runners and walkers set off down the shore. Little by little, the rising sunlight above them warmed the sands beneath their feet, just as, with each step, these sneaker-clad striders pushed forward to shed light of a different kind.

Participating in the Third Annual Cervical Cancer Awareness 5K Fun Walk/Run, they took to the beach to raise money for the Foundation for Women’s Cancer and to illuminate public awareness about “the prevention, early detection and treatment of gynecological cancers” in the Jacksonville community.

Celebrating January as Cervical Cancer Prevention Month, the event was organized by the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Florida Council of Nurse Midwives, many of whom also serve as professors and clinical preceptors for the Jacksonville University School of Nursing.

“People think of midwives as only delivering babies but we want to emphasize that we take care of women throughout their lifespans,” said Hilary Morgan, JU assistant professor of nursing and treasurer of the Northeast Florida Midwives.

The event drew in a wide variety of supporters and participants from throughout the city, behind all of which was a group of early-risen JU nursing students who volunteered their time to ensure the event was a success.

“They jumped right in,” said Nancy Robinson, JU assistant professor of nursing and vice-chair of the Northeast Florida Nurse Midwives.

Along with their help with the technical aspects of the event, the students also helped to add to the event’s “enthusiastic” atmosphere, Robinson said.

“The fact that it’s a community health concern makes it a concern of any nursing student, any nurse, or anyone in the medical profession,” said Alyssa Clark, JU senior nursing major. “On a personal level, I can’t think of many people who aren’t affected by cancer. So anything like this, I’d say, everybody should do.”

Preparing to embark into their own careers as nurses, the JU student volunteers were seniors in their community health rotation

“They get to do their practice but then also in community health we try to get them out to see all the other angles of nurses and how they support and interact with the community,” Robinson said.

They, literally, served as the beginning and the end for the day’s event. They directed traffic. They helped with set-up and registration. They guarded donations. They held signs marking the start and finish of the 5K trail, cheering as each new group of striders passed by.

“What we like to emphasize in this course is that nursing is more than just being in a hospital,” Morgan said. “Nursing is everywhere. There all sorts of avenues where nurses practice and being in the community is one of them.”

JU has been a part of the Cervical Cancer Awareness 5K since the event’s beginning and is currently one of eight sponsors that support it. The university had a presence not only as donors, participants and volunteers, but also as encouragers of education, promoting the JU School of Nursing MSN and Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate programs.

For the JU nursing student volunteers, these footprints in the sand signify an integral aspect of their education, and one of the final steps in their efforts to become professional nurses.

“You don’t realize going in that you are committing more than a couple hours plus homework time,” said Melony Smith, JU senior nursing major. “It [nursing school] is your life for a couple years.”

It’s a devotion that transcends from the classroom and into the life of a professional nurse.

“Nursing is more than a full-time job,” said Melissa Cowart, JU senior nursing major. “Whereas when you have a job, you can usually go to that job, leave it at the door and come home, you can’t do that. You have to be really committed.”