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Simmons Nursing Students Learn from Alumnae on the Job

Meredith Griffith '03 and Rebekah Levit '12SW Coach Students in Community Health Nursing Course

(January 10, 2013) -- "The students are definitely adding an extra dimension to the lives – and the health – of seniors living in this community."

That's how Adele Pike, clinical instructor at the Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences, assessed the impact of the six Simmons nursing students she taught during their fall-semester clinical in community health nursing at Springhouse, a senior living community in Jamaica Plain, MA. The community includes a facility for seniors requiring "memory care," and each Simmons student was paired with a resident throughout the semester.

"One resident told me, 'The students give us something to look forward to, when we don't have much to look forward to,'"says Pike, who is also director of education at the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston. "We really like their energy, what they teach and learn with us, and their excitement about becoming nurses."

Simmons students, alumnae "coaches," and faculty attended a November 15, 2012 luncheon for those involved in a community health nursing course. (Front Row, L-R) Meredith Griffith '03, Katie Mead '13, Vanessa Poirier '13. (Back row, L-R) Clinical Instructor Adele Pike, Gianna Lisi '13, Associate Professor of Practice Karen Teeley, Laura Sexton '13, Samantha Maughan '13, Rebekah Levit '12SW, Shannon Curran '13.

The students' own enthusiasm about their experience was readily apparent at an end-of-semester luncheon Springhouse hosted for them and their expert coaches, including Meredith Griffith '03, and Rebekah Levit '12SW. Levit, a clinical social worker, is the director of memory care at Springhouse; and Griffith, a mental health counselor and art therapist, is the facility's therapeutic program coordinator.

"This experience has really helped me expand my communication skills. I also realized the importance of seeing each 'patient' as a person. I look forward to applying what I've learned to future work in a hospital setting," says Samantha Maughan '13, of Southbury, CT.

Maughan and the other five students are all seniors. The classroom portion of the community health nursing class is taught by Karen Teeley, associate professor of practice in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

"By the time students are seniors, they have the maturity and perspective to be able to focus less on themselves and their needs as students, and more on the patients and their needs," says Teeley, who notes that the clinical aspect of the course reflects the Simmons commitment to hands-on learning. "We want to make sure students leave with life skills."

In addition to their one-on-one work with Springhouse residents, the Simmons students collaborated on a team project: creating a series of teaching tools to help relatives of senior citizens experiencing some degree of dementia. Each student focused on a different aspect of care, and presented their project at the luncheon.

Vanessa Poirier '13, of Peabody, MA, concentrated on spirituality and preparing people for the holidays. "Spirituality is often overlooked in the broader scope of a patient’s care, but it really has practical implications. For example, for people with dementia, spirituality taps into long-term memory, and that helps compensate for losses in short-term memory," says Poirier, president of the Catholic student group at Simmons, and vice president of the senior class.

Shannon Curran '13, whose hometown is Sterling, MA, focused on a tool to help teach families how to be alert to warning signs that could necessitate changes in someone's care. "The fact that Medicare now considers teaching a skilled service, and will pay for it, is an exciting breakthrough that opens up new opportunities to help people and focus more on prevention," says Curran.

 "I'm really proud these students are going into the nursing profession. They are wonderful," says Carol Robinson, the resident care director at Springhouse.


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