The Alvin Community College Nursing program recently formed a new partnership with ActionS of Brazoria County to provide a clinical site and volunteering opportunities for students.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact healthcare programs and the availability of student clinical sites. The ActionS partnership allows students to continue their education while also providing assistance to local patients.
ActionS is a non-profit organization that provides support for elderly patients by providing them transportation, helping them secure financial support, give assistance with medical providers, finding medical equipment and more.
“This program has been a tremendous blessing to not only the seniors who received the home visits but our entire program,” said Breah Knape, ActionS executive director. “The students helped deliver grocery boxes when they weren’t making home visits. The seniors called almost daily to thank us for partnering with ACC Nursing Department.”
This Fall, ACC Associate Degree Nursing students helped fill the demand and provide assistance to the senior citizens that the organization serves.
“The students exceeded our expectations and we were impressed with their dedication, engagement and passion for helping their community,” said Nursing instructor Justin Morgan, who helped coordinate the partnership. ‘The clients in turn were very vocal about their appreciation and let Actions know on many occasions.”
Students have assisted in scheduling follow ups with providers for medication refills, identifying elevated blood pressures that needed to be evaluated by a provider, addressing home safety concerns, addressing nutritional concerns, obtaining proper medical supplies/equipment and more.
“Our students were divided into teams, each team consisted of students from second/third semester along with one pair of fourth semester students and assigned a faculty member,” Morgan said. “The team was then assigned a list of clients whom had been identified as most at risk by Actions and been contacted and agreed to participate in the program.”
While the students are earning credit toward their degree, they’re also providing much needed emotional support and created relationships with the clients to ensure they knew someone stills cares about them in the midst of the pandemic.
“The seniors loved it and began to really enjoy the visits, they opened up and began to trust the students,” he said. “Students in turn learned how to communicate effectively with the seniors and through their assessments were able to identify many needs of the clients.”
Doing clinical rotations with ActionS went from an educational purpose to a personal journey for students and the patients.
“We saw how at the beginning of the program some of our clients were down emotionally and maybe not caring for themselves as well as they could,” student Kelly McLaughlin said. “After just a few weeks there was a noticeable difference. We were able to have an experience that most Nursing students don’t get to have until they go into a field that offers similar experiences. This program has opened options to students that they might not have considered otherwise.”
Working with the patients became a profound experience, said student Heather Jolly.
“As each visit progressed I found myself not talking to a ‘patient’ but to a close friend or family member,” Jolly said. “We got to know them and they us. We became very familiar with their daily routines, likes/dislikes, life stories. We heard about the sorrows they experienced or were currently experienced and offered a listening ear. Next thing I knew I was looking forward to my Tuesday/Friday visits.”
“Our students were incredible, they went completely above and beyond and really should be commended for their efforts,” he said. “There were digital food drives, they used social media to assist in gathering donations of food, clothes and household items like heating blankets, microwaves, space heater, they found out that the fire department will provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for free and many took advantage of this opportunity.”
Students are now volunteering to offer more help for ActionS patients beyond their clinical visits. They are collecting donated items that their patients need.
“One of our clients had a broken wheelchair,” student Annamarie Kilgore said. “I reached out to my neighbors via our Facebook group and asked if anyone happened to have a wheelchair lying around that they wouldn't mind donating. Within two hours I received two separate messages from people that were more than happy to donate theirs.”
Students are getting an education through the ActionS partnership but they are also forming relationships with their patients.
“We are very fortunate to have been partnered with ActionS for our clinicals this semester and the benefits everyone received were more than imagined,” Kilgore said.
Knape said she hopes the partnership will continue to benefit students and seniors in the future.
“I can never thank ACC enough for reaching out and initiating this conversation,” she said. “We are hopeful this is just the beginning of a long-standing partnership. The entire experience has truly been a blessing to everyone involved. “