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School of Nursing Honors Program That Works for Students, Elderly

Thursday, December 07, 2006

An Orleans County school district has found a way to reduce student absenteeism, boost graduation rates and, at the same time, help nursing home residents.

On Friday Dec. 8, the University of Rochester School of Nursing’s Community Initiative To Improve Nursing Home and Dementia Care will salute the “Community as School” program of the Albion Central School District and the Orleans County Nursing Home in Albion. The program also is the subject of a regular column on innovations in long-term care written by School of Nursing faculty in the just-published December issue of the American Journal of Nursing.

The “Community as School” program is designed for students who have difficulty in the traditional school environment and structure. The students report to the nursing home by 8 a.m. five days a week and stay until 2:30 p.m. They attend classes in English, Health, Economics, Government, Math, and Physical Education and can earn up to ten credits toward their high school diploma. At the same time, the students develop partnerships with residents, engage in internships and perform service projects. The students interact with residents through chats, structured activities, such as bingo and line dancing. The residents work with the students on class projects.

Internships give students a chance to try out career choices in nursing and other service-related positions. On service projects, students work on improvements to the nursing home that the residents help plan, such as painting and decorating dining areas.

Of the more than 100 students who participated in the “Community as School” program since it began in 1998, 69 percent have graduated or are on-track to graduate, compared to 40 percent in alternative programs not in nursing homes. Students in the program miss 40 percent fewer school days per semester. They also receive 33 percent fewer discipline referrals compared to their previous records in a traditional school setting. 

“The nursing home offers unique features ideal for alternative education such as separation from mainstream school culture, exposure to occupational careers and opportunities for students to learn through active engagement with older adults,” said Nancy Watson, Ph.D., R.N., who is director of the Community Initiative and director of the Elaine C. Hubbard Center for Nursing Research on Aging.

In the program, students feel connected and part of something, said Brennan Meakin, alternative education teacher in the Albion Central School District.

“The nursing home gives them a different outlet and motivation to try new things,” Meakin said.

Students are active in the program for one or two semesters before returning to the high school to finish their academic career. Many have gone on to college or service-related jobs in both acute and long-term medical facilities.

“We applaud the Albion project not just for what it’s done for community high school students and nursing home residents but also for exposing them to health care professions,” said Diana Mason, R.N., Ph.D., editor-in-chief of American Journal of Nursing. “It is our hope that programs like this one may inspire some of these students to some day consider a career in nursing or other health-related jobs.”

WHAT:  The School of Nursing will salute the “Community as School” program. The salute is part of a session sponsored by the University of Rochester School of Nursing Elaine C. Hubbard Center for Clinical Research on Aging and the John A. Hartford Foundation Community Initiative that will focus on ways to improve activities and recreational therapy for dementia patients.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Friday Dec. 8.

WHERE: RochesterAcademy of Medicine, 1441 East Avenue.

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