Notre Dame College Nursing Students Help Identify and Treat Lead Poisoning in Public School Children

Notre Dame College nursing students have joined in collaborative lead screening efforts for public school students aged 3-6 through the Partners in Health initiative of Cleveland.

The College’s senior-level nursing majors have been involved this academic year in screening preschool and kindergarten children at five institutions throughout the Cleveland Municipal School District. The Partners in Health Lead Screening Project aims to increase screening rates and identify the presence and high levels of the dangerous toxin among this vulnerable population. Affected youth typically come from urban areas where homes were built prior to the time lead paint and pipes were no longer permitted.

As part of the initiative, Notre Dame’s nursing students have the opportunity to experience interdisciplinary community healthcare service firsthand by interacting with school nurses, community health workers, physician assistant students and other health profession students involved in the project.  

Nursing seniors at the College have assisted with all areas of the process: gathering students; preparing and obtaining blood samples; and documenting, reviewing and processing the results. They also help calm and reassure the children who often have a challenging time with the finger-prick blood test and then must return to their classrooms.

Children who test positive for lead are referred for follow-up testing with additional information and education provided to parents and caregivers. Nursing students also help with parent outreach and education. The outreach typically includes explanations of test results, how to obtain additional medical care and how to reduce lead exposure at home. When needed, parents may also be referred to community programs that can help with lead abatement or legal assistance.

Cleveland ranks among the nation’s worst cities for childhood lead exposure, typically leading Ohio and ranking third among American cities. Only about a third of the children who are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning in the Northeast Ohio area are screened for lead. The goal of the Partners in Health initiative is to reach 80 percent of these youth by the end of 2019.

The lead screening project focuses on children aged 3-6, a time of rapid brain growth. Even at low levels of exposure, youth can suffer serious consequence from lead poisoning, which is known now to impact a child’s brain development, resulting in cognitive, physical and behavioral impairment.

The Partners in Health initiative is a partnership between the City of Cleveland, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Municipal School District.

Notre Dame’s student involvement is led by three faculty members in the College’s Division of Nursing: Colleen Sweeney, M.S.N., Ph.D., J.D., R.N., CNE, Associate Professor of Nursing and Director of Graduate Nursing program; Gregory P. Knapik, Ph.D., D.N.P., P/MH CNS, ANP, Assistant Professor of Nursing; and Linda Council, M.S.N., R.N., Clinical Coordinator and Lynn Papesch, M.S.N., RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing.

March 2019


About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or

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