SHIP team sails across new horizons to reach out to communities during the pandemic

GCU’s Safeguarding Health through Infection Prevention (SHIP) research group has risen to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by finding new and inventive ways to reach out to our communities.

To mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) from November 18-24, the researchers have been blogging and organising events to spread the word about the importance of hand hygiene.

They have organised a virtual Bug Hunt on November 27 for pupils at Saracen Primary in Glasgow to encourage the next generation of scientists and health researchers, as a part of the European Researcher’s Night Explorathon 2020 event.

Pupils will be treated to a ‘See your own microbes’ activity where they get to use household items such as pencils, sticky tape and water to make homemade microscopes to help them understand how small things appear larger using equipment like a microscope.

In the ‘Make your own microbes’ activity, pupils will be given a petri dish containing play-dough colours and encouraged to reflect on what microbes look like and design their own.

There will also be a ‘Clean your hands’ activity featuring a demonstration of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) six steps of effective hand hygiene. The children will then be given the chance to perfect their knowledge of how to do these steps  in order.

Professor Lesley Price, SHIP Research Group Co-Lead, said: “I am so proud of the SHIP staff and students their creativity and enthusiasm for public engagement is phenomenal.”

PhD student Alicia Ware added: “The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped SHIP staff and students from getting out there and teaching people about our interest in hand hygiene and microbes!”

“We have embraced the challenges, and used social media and the Glasgow Science Festival platforms to spread our message on how to practice effective hand hygiene. Our final activity of the year at Saracen Primary is shaping up to be a belter and is more focussed on microbiology and laboratory work, although we won’t forget our usual hand hygiene message. We are so grateful for the opportunity to help shape the next generation of scientists and health researchers!”

Earlier this year, Senior Lecturer Dr Val Ness captained SHIP staff in launching a social media campaign to mark World Hand Hygiene Day on May 5 and International Year of the Nurse & Midwife 2020, entitled “Mission: Hand Hygiene”.

The campaign included a video acknowledging the importance of hand hygiene, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and demonstrating the WHO six steps for effective hand hygiene. The video was shared widely on Twitter and through the SHIP blog. It has been viewed over 2000 times.

SHIP PhD students, led by PhD Student Laura Fregonese, also took part in the September 2020 Glasgow Science Festival “Science on the Sofa” Hands On(line) events, designing and putting together an online video entitled “It’s Soap Challenge Time!”.

Activities included an experiment demonstrating the importance of using soap to wash hands and a demonstration of the six step technique. It was designed in such a way that participants could follow the video using household items.

Staff from the SHIP Research Group have always had a passion for taking part in community and public engagement events.

In 2019 to celebrate International Hand Hygiene Day, PhD Student Lauren Blane directed the researchers in a ‘solidarity chain’ to signify health equality and unity around the world with photographs and videos being shared across social media and through GCU communications.

They were also been involved in a number of successful school events marking Glasgow Science Festival Community Days and with European Antibiotic Awareness Day, which featured Professor Snot (aka mental health nursing Lecturer Bill McDonald), staff and researchers giving lessons to primary pupils about how to stop spreading germs.

Read the SHIP team’s latest blog, written by PhD student Lucy Gozdzielewska, to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week – link here.

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