Nursing Students Help Elderly and Disadvantaged

KNOXVILLE — This summer, University of Tennessee nursing students are putting their classroom lessons into practice by taking critical health care services to the elderly, the homeless and the economically disadvantaged.

As part of the Master’s Entry program, the student nurses do “community clinicals” twice a year, in the spring and summer, for course credit. Summer clinicals began July 11 and continue through Aug. 9. Fourteen UT nursing students are serving in the Knoxville area.

During these clinicals, the student nurses work with the state Department of Children’s Services, the Office on Aging, the Knox County Health Department and Volunteer Ministries on programs that focus on health promotion and community assessment of vulnerable populations.

Students choose which areas to focus on in their clinical experience.

“I like for them to choose what clinic they go to,” said Professor Bonnie Callen, who coordinates the community clinicals. “If they are interested in children, they can choose the pediatric clinic at the Knox County Health Department.”

As an integral part of the nursing curriculum, the experience also allows students to see vulnerable populations in the community and what their needs are, Callen said.

Nursing student Freddie Kojima said the real-world practice adds depth to their classroom lessons.

“The clinicals give us the opportunity to translate what we’ve learned in the nursing program into helping those in the community,” he said.

Though they need the class in order to graduate, the clinicals are more than just a requirement to many students. “It’s about doing something good and helping people,” Kojima added.

At the DCS, nursing students teach parents about administering medication to young children. The students also lead a four-hour session on parent education and a test for certification upon completion.

At the Office on Aging, students assist with Project LIVE and help elderly people who live independently with daily tasks such as taking medications, doing chores and running errands.

At the Knox County Health Department students observe working nurses and learn about the role of the county organization in serving vulnerable populations.

At Volunteer Ministries, nursing students work with other volunteers to provide primary care for homeless individuals.

The Master’s Entry program allows students who don’t have a bachelor’s degree in nursing to pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). Students must complete selected upper-division undergraduate courses before taking coursework in the MSN program. They also are required to pass the nursing licensure exam in Tennessee after completing undergraduate coursework and before beginning MSN courses.

Nursing students greatly benefit from the clinical experiences and so do the organizations involved.

“We appreciate everything the nursing students do for us,” said Misty Goodwin, assistant manager of Project LIVE at the Office on Aging. “Our clients really open up and talk to the nursing students. It helps to have them there to talk to and ask questions.”


Contacts:
Bonnie Callen, (865) 974-7597, bcallen@utk.edu
Kristi Hintz, (865) 974-3993, khintz@utk.edu