Farm Progress

Health screening at Husker Harvest Days saves lives

Nursing students gain valuable experience and farmers gain valuable health information at HHD.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

February 7, 2019

2 Min Read
PRESSURE CHECK: A nursing student checks a show visitor’s blood pressure at the Hospitality Tent at Husker Harvest Days.



For many years, health screenings, along with rural safety and health-related exhibits, have been a fixture in the Hospitality Tent at Husker Harvest Days. At times during HHD, the tent is literally buzzing with show attendees visiting booths dealing with farm safety and health.


Students from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, Kearney Division, play a crucial role in the health screenings at HHD. The screenings also provide learning opportunities for the students.


“There are 56 new nursing students admitted every fall,” says Barb Wehrman, UNMC CON Kearney Division nursing instructor. “These new students provide blood pressure screenings, as well as health promotion education, as part of their assessment and patient care courses,” she says. “The students work alongside the Nebraska nurse practitioners to perform skin screening. These students come to HHD after learning and practicing the needed skills.”


Students also go through simulation learning to prepare for working in outdoor settings. They have time for guided learning at the HHD grounds to gain greater understanding of rural culture, Wehrman explains.


“Instructors are present at HHD to assist students and supplement their learning,” she says. “Students spend time in the skin screening booth with nurse practitioners and in the UNMC CON booth to screen blood pressure.”


Wehrman estimates that between 1,000 and 1,200 people were screened for blood pressure and close to 600 received skin screenings at HHD this year.


Over the years, the health screenings at HHD have saved lives. “We have had several anecdotes, but this year when I was there, a young woman came to talk with me about how she received screening and followed up with a dermatologist, and was treated for Stage 4 skin cancer,” Wehrman says. “We also hear from participants who report that they took their blood pressure numbers from HHD to their practitioner, and after further assessment, started treatment for dangerously high blood pressure.”


While there is no statistical information about how often farmers receive health checks, Wehrman says farmers often say that they don’t want to take time to go to their practitioner. That’s why they appreciate the health screenings at HHD.


“Farmers and other outdoor workers are at a higher risk for skin cancer, and they have many of the risks of the general population, such as increasing sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, stress and occupational safety risks,” she says.


Wehrman calls the HHD screenings a service to participants. “Health screening demonstrates valuing the whole farmer, and stresses the concern for the health of farmers and families,” she says. “I think that additional screening and other health services, such as counseling or stress management, would also be a plus.”


About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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