As an MTSU professor in the School of Nursing with over four decades of experience in the field, Shelley Moore is always looking to expand hands-on learning opportunities for her students.
“Participating in hands-on activities is a hallmark characteristic of our nursing program, but most of the community agency experiences are more ‘clinical’ in nature, such as working alongside nurses in area hospitals,” Moore said.
Tom Tozer sits on the board of directors at local nonprofit Mindful Care, a program for adults and seniors with moderate cognitive decline hosted in a large church recreation room. The former director of MTSU’s Office of News and Media Relations connected with his True Blue colleagues and reached out to Moore about a possible partnership.
“When this opportunity arose for students to work outside the hospital setting, a less intense environment, I ran with it,” said Moore, adding it was the perfect fit for students in the Health and Gerontology course focused on aging and only six miles away from campus.
To launch the partnership to students this semester, Moore offered the six volunteer hours at Mindful Care as one of three assignment options. Benefits for the students who chose it have been tremendous, she said.
“They become more empathetic for adults with cognition challenges, and they develop self-confidence in communication skills,” Moore said. “To hear every week how they are greatly enjoying their experience at Mindful Care is heart-warming. They appear to be having a lot of fun, and when I see them in action, I can see why! Smiles and laughter abound!”
Moore hopes interest in the assignment will continue to grow and that one day the course itself will become an Experiential Learning, or EXL, course that combines traditional classroom and real-world learning environments.
“My hopes are that every student who can possibly fit this into their schedule does so, and that Mindful Care’s space and time can accommodate all who opt for it … and that more and more eligible people in the community learn of the wonderful fellowship, exercise and socialization that Mindful Care offers in a safe and caring environment and give it a try!”
Cindi Thomas, Mindful Care director and MTSU alumna, refers to the program as “The Club” and enjoys the opportunities made available to students through the partnership.
“I enjoy giving the student a real experience with how dementia and cognitive loss affects their future patients and how to develop the skills to interact with them and be comfortable for them and their patients,” said Thomas, who has an extensive background in nursing and working with people with Alzheimer’s. “They (members) have enjoyed telling their life stories to them as well as developing relationships with them.”
A fulfilling experience
So far, eight junior nursing students have taken advantage of the Mindful Care partnership in two separate cohorts. Zina Adrovic, Natalie Andrews, Bethaney Eades and Tiahna Gallaher made up the first cohort who participated earlier in the semester, and Kaitlyn Becksted, Samuel Josil, Barbara Frizzell and Insa Feldhusen made up the second who finished their hours this month.
On their final day with the program, Frizzell, Becksted and Feldhusen arrived with a lesson plan and materials to lead the day’s “Club” members in a craft activity.
“I would definitely recommend other students participate in this experience, especially if they have no experience with dementia patients,” said Frizzell, a Knoxville, Tennessee, native. “The members at Mindful Care really just wanted to tell us their stories, and one of the most important things we did was listen to them…. It was a fun assignment to choose, and I wish we had more time to spend with them.”
Becksted, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said it is a great opportunity to spend time in and interact with the community.
“I got to experience the different levels of care based on the (participants’) level of cognitive function and got to learn about different activities that are beneficial for older adults, including low intensity arm workouts, singing along to music, trivia, watching movies, playing games and different crafts,” she said.
Adrovic, a member of the first cohort, chose the Mindful Care assignment because she loves geriatrics and had previously worked in a nursing home.
“I learned how to work with the perception of older adults and create learning activities for them,” said Adrovic, also originally from Knoxville, Tennessee.
To learn more about the opportunities at MTSU’s School of Nursing, visit the website at https://www.mtsu.edu/nursing/.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)
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