Forging A New Relationship–Foulkeways At Gwynedd

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For the last 10 weeks, Foulkeways at Gwynedd, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) located in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, has been partnering with Drexel University’s School of Nursing to provide hands-on training to 16 students. The students are training in Gerontology, which is the study of social, biological and psychological aspects of aging. Two groups, comprised of eight students each, have been spending one day a week working with the residents in Foulkeways Skilled Nursing Care Facility, Gwynedd House.

Foulkeways is the recent recipient of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s newly created, 2012 Excellence in Health Care Compliance Award. The community is also the first Quaker CCRC in the country and was one of the first CCRCs in Pennsylvania when it opened in 1967.

Some of the students participating in the Foulkeways partnership are enrolled in Drexel’s Accelerated Career Entry (ACE) Program. This program is open to candidates who have already earned a degree in another field of study. Students in the ACE Program complete their curriculum requirements in one full calendar year. Students enrolled inDrexel’s traditional, four-year Bachelor of Nursing Program are also represented in this new, innovative partnership. The ACE students will graduate this September, while students in the traditional program will graduate in 2013.

“All Drexel nursing students are required to complete their clinical practicum in a variety of specialties: Medical/Surgical, Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Gerontology, to name just a few,” notes Adjunct Clinical Professor, Maureen Hoban Kahn, MSN, RN, who serves as Drexel’s on-site program instructor. “The experiences at Foulkeways have influenced our students’ perceptions of working with the older population in a very positive way. They are being offered the opportunity to translate what they have learned in the classroom into a hands on experience, and are seeing what respect and genuine caring look like in a real life setting.”

Each student was assigned to a single resident’s care at the start of the 10-week program. Additional residents were added to the students’ rosters as the weeks progressed. Students were responsible for on-going assessments; wound care; medication distribution and monitoring; and even end-of-life issues, such as hospice, as circumstances arose. Students were also responsible for developing creative Resident Care Plans, which have included pet therapy; music appreciation; and a newfound understanding and respect for the vitality, diversity and wisdom of aging adults.

“Our partnership with Foulkeways has allowed our students to enhance their skills in biology, psychology, communication and leadership, all the theories they have been studying, while interacting with compassion and attention to an older population,” explains Hoban Kahn. “Students have created care plans that have provided personalized attention focused on the whole individual, not just the frailer version of themselves residents are currently presenting.”

“One of our students arranged for a retired physician living in Gwynedd House to conduct several lectures to the group on Pulmonary Medicine, his life-long specialty,” Hoban Kahn adds. “Other care plans have uncovered and reconnected residents with hobbies and passions such as poetry and music. Students have organized informal piano concerts and shared poetry readings, performed by the residents in their care, much to the delight of both the performers and the listeners. The students even convinced me to bring my therapy dog, Scruffy, to Gwynedd House, where residents graciously accepted his impromptu visits to their private rooms and sitting areas.”

“This has been an amazing journey,” ACE student nurses Jeremy Schwartz and James Studzinski agree. Jeremy had already obtained a degree in Psychology and was working as a Health Insurance Administrator when he realized he “wanted to be on the other side of medicine to find more meaning in work.” He described his experience at Foulkeways as incredible. “The level of care and the genuine compassion and respect we see at Foulkeways has re-defined my standards for Geriatric caregivers. This experience has exceeded my expectations. “

James also decided to switch careers after earning a degree in Business. “The job market, the economy and a lack of advancement opportunities, all led to my entering the program,” he said. “Little did I realize that part of my training would involve learning how to operate a player piano. One of Foulkeways Gwynedd House residents, John Fernandez, has a player piano in his room, and I’ve become an expert at pumping the pedals on this wonderful antique. John has over a dozen rolls of music, dating back to the turn of the century, and his piano is in excellent working condition. When I open the door to his room, all his neighbors can enjoy the music flooding the hallways. It’s not easy pumping those pedals, but when I see the smile on Mr. Fernandez’s face, it’s worth every ounce of effort. Even John’s cat, Sweetie, seems to approve.”

A traditional, four-year nursing program student, Jeremy Buck was a firefighter and an EMT before he enrolled at Drexel. He says, “Caring for people is a part of my family’s legacy; my mother is a 911 Dispatcher, and my father is a firefighter.” Jeremy has taken to this opportunity for practical training at Foulkeways with zest and enthusiasm; his care plans are filled with deliberate opportunities to provide compassionate touch and hands-on encouragement to the seniors in his care. “The program with Foulkeways has given me a new appreciation of the power of the team approach utilized by the Foulkeways staff,” says Jeremy. “This experience has certainly broken any stereotypes I may have had about caring for an older population. This program is awesome.”

ACE student Ashley Brennan describes the program at Foulkeways as “unique and very different from what other practicums have been.” She adds, “This has been such a personal experience, not so much task oriented, but much more personalized. We have gotten to know the residents, and they have gotten to know us.”

“They want to teach us,” notes student Corie Halasz. “I thought I was here to teach them, and instead they are teaching us. One of my residents has a fossil collection dating back to 1930, and he proudly describes not only what they are, but where he found them.”

“It’s a happy place. I brought my mother to Foulkeways just to look around. I was so impressed and wanted her to see what a wonderful place this is,” explains Kasey Carr. “We were having lunch nearby, so I brought her over. She wouldn’t have believed what I was telling her otherwise!”

“I find that I am now giving support with integrity and respect. Foulkeways has taught us well,” interjects Caroline Wilkinson. “I have a degree in International Politics, and prior to joining the Drexel ACE program had worked in foreign countries including East Africa and Egypt. My plans include heading to Nigeria this December after I graduate, and I am better prepared thanks to this Quaker Connection.”

“This program has highlighted the positive aspects of working with the senior population,” points out Hoban Kahn. “Students involved in this partnership are celebrating the residents for their whole potential; who they are, who they were and who they can be. They made it a point to develop relationships with the residents, and the residents have risen to the challenge – teaching, appreciating, and enjoying the students every bit as much as the students are enjoying them.”

“I’d describe this program with Foulkeways as eye opening,” stresses Alanna Penecale. “Residents are cared for in homelike settings. We do things, just like we do at home. If the trash needs to go out, we take it out; there’s no waiting around for a maintenance worker to come on a different shift to get things done. Our residents have their own, personalized schedules and they continue to live by those schedules, rather than having to adjust to someone else’s ideas of when to get up, when to eat, and all the other daily decisions most of us make for ourselves. There’s a dignity in being able to maintain your normal way of doing things. The residents here can do that!”

Foulkeways Director of Health Services, Mary Knapp, MSN, GNP, NHA, FAAN, adds, “Gerontological nursing practices, especially in the nursing home setting, can often be viewed as a less desirable specialty. As a former Critical Care Nurse Specialist, I know first hand! However, using Gerontological nursing principles that can be applied within an interdisciplinary team setting, while working with older adults, is one of the most rewarding professional experiences a nurse can have. Foulkeways residents and staff want to share this experience with the students so they can bring it forward as they begin their nursing careers.”

Student Rachelle Mason sums up her experiences at Foulkeways and mirrors the sentiments of so many of the Drexel students when she says, “I’m obsessed with being here. I just can’t get enough of it.”

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