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Senior nursing students in Community/Public Health at Arizona State University have been visiting the residents at the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix for 4 years. Our neighbor to the west offers permanent housing for 300 elderly and/or disabled, low income single adults. Nursing students visit twice a week to offer health screenings, medication monitoring, flu shots and health education to residents. Residents are encouraged to participate in a walking program, and are provided small incentives for making any effort to engage in health promoting activities.
While the residents certainly appreciate the students’ efforts to improve their health status, they also look forward to the socialization that the students provide. Residents are lined up when the students arrive and many stay throughout the time that the students are there. Although the facility has spacious ballrooms and a beautiful outdoor area, not many residents gather and there are few opportunities for residents to engage in activities.
This semester, students in ASU's School of Community Resources and Development with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation are working with the nursing students and the residents to assess leisure interests and barriers preventing optimal leisure participation. Kelly Ramella, faculty in the program, is delighted to have the opportunity for recreation therapy students to get to know the residents by using a formal assessment process, and engaging in meaningful recreation with the residents. The students have learned about the diverse talents and interests of the residents as well as their personal and community goals. For instance, they have expressed a need to improve the connectedness among residents in the Westward Ho and a desire to engage in community service activities.
Together, the nursing and recreation therapy students collaborate with the residents to develop sustainable strategies to improve their overall quality of life through active engagement. There are leaders among the residents who dedicate much of their time and energy to supporting residents with daily living tasks, and they have a vision to expand on the model of neighbors supporting neighbors. The collaboration provides residents with the health services they need, and creates a time and place for residents to gather, have fun, get to know each other and develop deeper connections.
With the suggestions and guidance of the residents, the recreation therapy and nursing students are planning an event at the end of the semester. The residents, who are aging and/or disabled, will be invited to participate in activities designed to support the development of a holistic and healthy lifestyle. This event involving physical activity, art, community service, games and more will serve as a model for what is hoped to be a long-term interprofessional collaboration.
Submitted by Kay Jarrell