Student Nurses Practice Teaching Through Community Partnership

Published 04.12.2007

Student News

Students and Grace Street Commons participants in the project include, from left, Andrea J. Dyer, a nursing student from Watsontown%3B resident M. Marie Brooks%3B resident Bertha Poliska%3B Nicole G. Brinkman, a nursing student from Mill Hall%3B resident Carol Houtz%3B resident Grace Gaskins%3B and Jessica M. DeParasis, a nursing student from Linden.Student nurses from Pennsylvania College of Technology are spending time during the spring semester working with local senior citizens who reside in apartment complexes managed by the Warrior Run Development Corp.

Twenty-four students, all pursuing bachelor's degrees in nursing, are matched one-on-one with 24 volunteer participants, visiting the apartment complexes three times during the semester.

"I had to do a complete physical assessment, complete health history, psychosocial interview and a teaching project," explained Andrea J. Dyer, a junior from Watsontown. "I then had to evaluate how the client responded and what they had gained from the teachings."

In conjunction with faculty, the students developed individualized, interactive lessons for their clients based on their assessment and interview, using research and concepts used in the classroom.

"During my health history interview, I was able to gather teaching ideas for my client," Dyer said. "I chose to teach about preventing Type 2 diabetes. I gave examples of exercises and healthy recipes and food choices. I gave my client a copy of the recipes, but I also made her a sample of some of the recipes I was offering to her."

Other students' teaching activities have included medication safety, living with emphysema, safety and security in the home, prevention of pneumonia, and maintaining proper nutrition, among many others.

"I love this project," said Angie M. Hunter, of Williamsport, also a junior. "My patient had an extensive medication list, so I came up with a teaching session about her medications."

Hunter created a notebook detailing the functions and side effects of each of her client's medications, trying to make it attractive as a reference tool later on.

"The outcome was more than I expected, because while I was doing her medications, I realized she might want to consult her physician about a certain medication interacting with others," Hunter said. "My patient was very thankful that we noticed this and told me she would ask the physician as soon as possible. It made me feel really good about helping my patient, because she was already doing such a good job taking care of herself."

"All in all, (my patient's) reception to me was great," Dyer said. "I enjoyed learning about her and maybe helping her, and I feel that she also enjoyed our time together.

"This experience has shown me a different avenue that a nurse could take," she continued. "We don't all have to work in a hospital to make a difference in someone's life. Being in the community and helping our elders maintain some independence is very empowering. Not only can community nurses work with the elderly, but we can also work with our future − children. This experience was wonderful and showed me a wide variety in the field of nursing."

Hunter, too, learned big-picture lessons: "This experience has taught me how to prepare for future patients within the community health-care systems," she said. "My patient asked questions, which helped me realize how to explain things in a widely understood way. I know that some people are afraid to say they don't understand, and I never want that to happen."

The students were supervised by Kathleen M. Hyatt, instructor of nursing, and Jane J. Benedict, associate professor of nursing, who said that, in addition to students practicing the skills they'll employ on the job, the residents gain information that enables them to become more active participants in their health care, ask pertinent questions of their health-care providers, and possibly prevent recurrences or complications from existing health problems.

Sandy Suydam, support services coordinator for Warrior Run Development Corp., said she regularly schedules educational programs for the residents.

"This would definitely be a wonderful experience for the residents and the nursing students," she said. "The residents involved are eager to contribute to the students in their learning process. Some of the residents are retired nurses and know the experience the students receive would be beneficial to them."

The five elderly complexes in the Williamsport area with which the students were involved are: Almond Street Commons, Faxon Commons, Grace Street Commons, Grier Street Manor and Linn Street Manor, all managed by Warrior Run Development Corp. The link between the college's nursing program and the residents of Warrior Run Development Corp. complexes began in the fall semester, when associate-degree students conducted blood-pressure and blood-glucose screenings with the residents. Thirty-five of the residents then volunteered to participate in the current education program.

Residents have been given the opportunity to evaluate their student, as well as the project as a whole, and Benedict said all the evaluations thus far have been "extremely positive," with participants stating the project was a "fantastic" opportunity for them.

Other comments include: "The information I received about my medications was very helpful in understanding my health issues" and "I enjoyed her way of bringing things out to me; she was able to tell me what I needed to know."

The students will conduct their concluding visits with their patients through May 1, and Benedict has been asked by Suydam to continue the one-on-one teaching projects for the next year and to develop a group-education offering for each complex.

For more information about Warrior Run Development Corp., visit online or call (800) 735-3068. For information about the academic programs offered by the School of Health Sciences at Penn College, call (570) 327-4519, e-mail or visit on the Web.