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CSU Pueblo Nursing Students Provide Respite at Pueblo Zoo Despite Pandemic

Release Date: July 13, 2020

Haley Sue Robinson

Director of Communications/PIO

Marketing, Communications, Community Relations

(719) 549-2810

Nursing Day at Zoo

Colorado State University Pueblo nursing students in the accelerated nursing program provide respite for families with children with special needs.  This is a partnership facilitated by the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE). The CSU Pueblo nursing students are accompanied by faculty members as well as two registered nurses from PDPHE. 

“This is the first time [for me] doing a respite day with the kids,” said Kacy Ulam, first year accelerated nursing student at CSU Pueblo. “It’s nice that the parents can go take time for themselves and they feel safe knowing their kids are with nursing students and have the opportunity to take a break.”

Due to the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, CSU Pueblo nursing students have been unable to meet with the children in the respite care program since February. Nursing students normally provide respite once a month for ten months out of the calendar year. On Thursday, July 9 the nursing students were able to join children in the program at the Pueblo Zoo. Children were able to receive a discounted rate of admission with the Pueblo School District 60 rate which was underwritten by The Shandy Clinic.

“These nursing students have their pediatric class in the fall so this way they have some time with a clinical day now and then they’re able to do respite care,” said Ruth DePalma, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Undergraduate Nursing Program Coordinator at CSU Pueblo.

Each of the nursing students are given access to the medical profile of the children in the respite program so they are able to care for their specific needs. Then students are paired in a one-to-one up to a one-to-three ratio with each of the children in the program dependent on individualized care requirements.

“The families fill out a big packet and answer a lot of information so we know how to care and interact with the students,” said Fudge Gonzales, RN and Care Coordinator for the Health Care Program (HCP) with Special Needs at PDPHE. “It’s important to know medical needs and make sure student are prepared for any care they may need to provide.”

The HCP offers care coordination services for families with a child or children with special health problems. The respite care program with the CSU Pueblo nursing students has been in existence for ten years and is funded through the HCP grant administered by PDPHE. The grant was exercised due to high need within the Pueblo community and then the CSU Pueblo nursing program became involved due to clinical needs.

Normally the respite care program takes place at YMCA of Pueblo, however due to restrictions with COVID-19 the program has been suspended recently.  Many of the families continued to reach out to DePalma at CSU Pueblo asking when the program would resume. 

Sixteen children were able to participate in the day at the Pueblo Zoo. Nursing students and the children in the program visited exhibits, learned about animals, played hide-and-seek and enjoyed the outdoors.

“I know a lot of parents who have had a hard time because of the pandemic,” said Ulam. “There’s a lot of facilities closed and when day care and schools close this is really helpful.  This is a nice break for the parents to get the kids out.”

For more information about Colorado State University Pueblo accelerated nursing program please contact School of Nursing and Health Sciences at or by calling 719-549-2871.

Applications in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences are due before October 1st of the year preceding May admission.  More information can be found by visiting

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