Students meet with elderly

Faculty and students from the Interprofessional Care in Geriatrics program celebrate the power of positivity and partnership in community outreach.

“People are like stained-glass windows.… Their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” — Elisabeth Kubler

“The light from within” occurred perpetually this fall semester and as we get closer to the holiday season in the Aging in Place course. Every Thursday afternoon, older adults at a high-rise building in West Baltimore come down from their apartments. They gather at the newly renovated lobby of their building to attend a community event thanks to the interprofessional students and faculty who lead health education sessions during these events. The following list is just a glimpse:

  • How to Benefit from the Annual Wellness Visit, by Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP, FAANP, FAAN
  • Insights from the ICU on the Delta Variant and COVID-19, by Janaki Deepak, MD, FACP
  • Fall Prevention in Older Adults — Observing Two Weeks of Fall Prevention, by Nicole Brandt, PharmD, MBA, BCGP, BCPP, FASCP, and Linda Horn, PT, DScPT, MHS
  • Understanding Tuberculosis in Older Adults, by Paul Saleeb, MD
  • Spiritual Care/Monitoring Hypertension in Older Adults, by Katherine J. Jacobson, MD, FACP
  • Controlling Diabetes in Older Adults, by Dawn Battise, PharmD, BCACP
  • Vascular Surgery Options for Older Adults, by Sarasijhaa Desikan, MD
  • And many others …

Immediately after the talk, it is the student teams’ turn to bring their “light from within.” They come with their stethoscopes and sphygmomanometers and receive requests to take the older neighbors’ blood pressures. This step opens opportunities to screen for high-risk medications, doses, interactions, adverse drug reactions, and more. The screenings can include depression, hearing loss, falls in the community, and others, following the format of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. Then the students lead an exercise or dance activity.

The true joy of these community engagements lies not at merely students learning, or the clinical outcomes produced, but rather in the positive energy shared amongst all. Everyone brings their best for a common goal: to cheerfully serve older adults in the community. The moments of laughter that the neighbors and the students share are truly memorable.

These activities and more are all part of a 3-credit, graduate-level course #CIPP621/PHMY5011 in which students join from University of Helsinki, Finland, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) and University of Maryland College Park’s schools and programs of audiology, dentistry and dental hygiene, medicine, nursing (including BSN, MSN, CNL, DNP), pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant, graduate, and social work. They come together to learn with, about, and from each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes for older adults who live in Baltimore.

One neighbor’s responses illustrate the “light from within” and the positivity many of our neighbors feel toward the faculty talks and student screenings. When asked how he’s doing, he replies, “Blessed by the best.” Students share many of their thoughts in their reflective journals. Informally, many neighbors have shared how much they have enjoyed the care, thoughtfulness, and weekly check-ins from the students. One neighbor shared that she was initially reluctant to meet with students but was surprised by their care and thoughtfulness and that they were proactive in welcoming her.

Students also had moments of unexpected insight or learning. One student from the pharmacy program at the University of Helsinki wrote in her journal: “The wide range of topics covered by the weekly talks but also the modules was amazing. I really enjoyed discovering all those aspects of geriatric care which once again are not that well-covered in France.” (The student is an exchange student studying at the University of Helsinki).

A student from the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) program at UMB wrote in her journal: “Meeting one-on-one with the neighbors helped me realize what the population looks like that we see coming to our hospitals. At the hospital, we just see the patient and try to help them get better, but we do not know where they are coming from and what their living conditions are like. This setting helped me realize the underlying factors that affect the neighbors’ health and the diseases they may have. I have appreciated the depth of the clinical in-the-home setting of the geriatric population.”

Lastly, a student from the PharmD program at UMB wrote: “I thought it was going to be faculty dominated/led and we were just there as helpers/observers. I was quickly able to see that it was the opposite. We the students were leading these interactions and faculty was there to guide us. I am glad it was structured this way because it gave students myself direct access to real world experience with real world patients early on our careers. The IPE component was also a great addition because students were able to learn and work alongside fellow health care professionals early on their careers.”

On Dec. 2, our interprofessional students and neighbors received a personal Christmas/holiday card from the students of a fourth-grade class in a West Baltimore school. This effort was led by Autumn Mack, who was supported by her mother, Artraya Townes, during this on-site session.

Townes describes her daughter as a caring, compassionate, and driven student who wants to help others, especially children at St. Jude Hospital. She is aspiring to be a surgeon and had the opportunity to connect with Desikan, a vascular surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center and guest lecturer for the course.

Autumn’s “light from within” was shining on all. One neighbor noted the quote on her card — “Do not GIVE UP” — is something she reminds herself of everyday as she is hoping she can eventually walk again after her stroke. These meaningful actions help to fuel the power of positivity during the holidays and beyond.

(Authors: Daniel Mansour, PharmD, BCGP, FASCP, AGSF; Merton Lee, PharmD; and Nicole Brandt, PharmD, MBA, BCGP, BCPP, FASCP)

Disclaimer: Elm Voices & Opinions articles reflect the thoughts or opinions of their individual authors, and may not represent the thoughts or values of UMB as an institution.

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