Enable Madison County has had a long-standing relationship with our local universities to provide nursing students with first-hand experiences caring for our aging population. This past year presented challenges due to in-person visits not being possible. Due to the hard work and persistence of the Enable Madison County Staff and the university professors, adjustments were made to continue this clinical experience for our future nurses. Instead of in-person visits, students made tele-visits with Enable Madison County clients. This change provided new learning opportunities for all involved. Several students reported that the conversations with the Enable Madison County clients helped remove their preconceived notions and misconceptions about our aging community. Read below some of the students’ thoughts on their experience with their geriatric clinical through Enable Madison County.
“My client taught me that you can be 81, independent, and as youthful as you were as a young adult. We are currently working in the Family Practice unit in the hospital and I see patients much younger that are severely impaired or hindered. As I do not have any older adult family members, I had the baseless notion that if you were in your 80s, it was likely you needed a lot of support or assistance. I had made assumptions that you could not perform most of your Acitivities of Daily Living (ADLs) on your own and that your quality of life may be diminished. She showed me that my assumptions were unfounded and that you can still have a good time and a good laugh at every stage of life.”
“My client.. expressed how much she and other elderly clients love being able to talk to people on the phone, especially since many of them are very lonely. Overall, a very rewarding experience and I truly enjoyed the time I spent talking with my client.”
I learned that as nursing students, we are taught medical conditions as if clients could only have one diagnosis, and sometimes we forget that clients can have endless diagnoses at once. It was sort of like a wakeup call, to remind us that although we are taught medical conditions in segments by concepts, clients could have multiple body systems issues. In addition to this, my client stayed healthy, overall, she didn’t drink alcohol or use tobacco, and yet you can see that despite that individuals can still develop multiple chronic issues.
You can’t be afraid of asking questions and though some may make you and the client uncomfortable you have to remain professional. Learning to ask the right questions as well. I can ask a question and get a response, however, as the assessment continues you may get better insight into something else they may not have disclosed at first. Asking the right questions and follow up questions is an assessment skill you have to learn on the job.
Remember to be kind and lend an opening ear because for most of these clients you’re the only person they can talk to. Also remember that this is a learning experience, everything won’t be perfect. Just go with the flow and try to enjoy yourself.