A newly developed assisted living initiative gives nursing students a fresh approach to healthcare. The program, which recently ended its first year, was designed to help nursing students discover an approach to healthcare where the overall purpose is to assist and educate patients on site.

Two Lane health instructors developed the program to “broaden the horizons” of upcoming nursing students. Small groups of nursing students are assigned to different communities so they can develop a curriculum with residents and to report their findings and experiences.

Jennifer Tavernier, one of the nursing instructors who developed the program, wants students to get a sense of what healthcare is becoming.

“Historically, this program [nursing] has been very hospital based,” Tavernier said. “So, because healthcare is changing, we need to change with healthcare. It’s all about keeping people healthy and keeping them out of the hospital.”

Sara Barnes, co-developer of the program, says healthcare is changing as more people have access because of the Affordable Care Act.

“So, we are going from acute care, treating people when they are sick and trying to make them better, to ‘let’s prevent people from getting sick,’” Barnes said. “We wanted to give the students another choice or option to see what it’s like in different facilities, and different spectrums of care, not just in a hospital.”

Assisted living facility staff members suggest what information they would like the nursing students to teach the residents, ranging from staying hydrated to proper nutrition. The nursing students incorporate the plans and then instruct the residents.

Students who have gone through the newly required fieldwork feel like they have grown and developed lasting skills from this program.

“I have learned to recognize the patient’s primary concerns and develop a nursing plan to effectively care for the patient,” second year nursing student Amber Norton said. “I have learned effective communication skills and how to build a trusting relationship with those I am caring for.”

Plans are in the works to get the new program ready for fall term.