Measuring and Mentoring

You could call it a partnership with measurable success: Penn Nursing students mentored teenagers at West Philadelphia’s Sayre High School over the past year, teaching them proper pediatric-measuring techniques. Working together, the two groups then gathered crucial growth data from elementary-school children in Sayre’s Beacon after-school program.

Led by Dr. Terri Lipman, associate professor of nursing of children, the project was an extension of her campaign to promote accurate pediatric-growth measurement techniques [“For Good Measure…,” Jan/Feb 2002].

The Sayre and nursing students assessed the growth patterns of 74 children and referred 20 percent for further evaluation because of problems such as linear-growth failure and obesity. Linear-growth failure, for these students, was defined as height less than the 5th percentile.

Although 20 percent may seem like a surprisingly large portion of the evaluated population, Lipman says she “wasn’t surprised, considering what we know about growth failure and obesity.”

The children who were referred for further evaluation were fortunate that their problems were identified at a young age, she says. “While many adults today are diagnosed with obesity and put on diets, the earlier that children are identified with growth problems, whether linear growth problems or obesity, the better the chance for adequate treatment.”

Lipman hopes that the Sayre partnership project, funded by Penn’s Center for Community Partnerships, will encourage the participants to pursue careers in science or medicine. The high-school students were mentored by Penn Nursing students, visited the School of Nursing to learn about nursing as a career, and visited the technology labs to learn about some of the newer technologies in the field. They will present their measurement data at a national pediatric nursing meeting in Dallas.

Lipman continues to research measurement accuracy and recently completed a study evaluating the linear measurements of 200 children in an inpatient pediatric setting and presented her data in May at the Pediatric Endocrinology Nursing Society. She also was co-principal investigator of a three-year study of 660 children at eight primary-care pediatric offices across the country. She found that less than one third of the children were measured accurately, with some of the errors as great as twice the length a normal child grows in one year. However, after pediatric endocrine nurses instructed the participants on the proper measuring techniques, the percentage of accurate measurement reporting rose substantially, with more than half the children receiving correct measurements.

—Jennifer Nath C’08





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