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Co-op Scholar Nursing Students Immersed in Elder Care

Rising Sophomores Work One-on-One With Patients

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Nursing students, from left, Amanda Angelo, Olivia Marshall, Emily Majeski and Kelsey Barrett, presented their research and internship experience at the university’s Co-op Scholars poster presentation.

09/25/2014
By Karen Angelo

For many first-year students, learning happens in the classroom. But for some nursing students wrapping up their freshman year, a summer internship placed them directly into the role of caregiver. 

Through the university’s Co-op Scholars program, four nursing students worked for Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley in Lawrence, an agency that provides services to seniors in 23 cities and towns. 

“It was an amazing experience,” says nursing student Emily Majeski. “How often is someone, much less a person who has just completed their freshman year of nursing school, presented with an opportunity like this?” 

The students worked as transition coaches for Medicare patients who recently returned to their homes after long hospital stays. In follow-up phone calls, the students reviewed medication changes, upcoming appointments and the status of the patients’ health conditions. The students also made independent house calls that allowed them one-on-one time with patients. The ultimate goal of the Community Care Transitions Program is to provide support and resources to Medicare patients to reduce avoidable re-admissions back to the hospital. 

Lindsay Marino, RN, the nurse manager of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, witnessed the growth in the students’ ability to take on more complex tasks as she worked with them almost daily. 

She says: “The nursing student interns did an excellent job organizing and prioritizing tasks within our fast-paced agency. By talking with patients and asking them questions related to their healthcare, the students developed a comfort level with patient interaction and also strengthened their communication skills.” 

Care at Hand Research 

Students also gained experience working on a research experiment using Care at Hand technology that detects early symptoms specific to patient diagnoses. The 15-question, disease-specific questionnaire is asked at each patient touch point. If an alert is triggered based on the answers, the student interns worked with the nurse care coordinator to help the patient get the medical attention they needed. 

“We analyzed the nurses' notes after receiving an alert triggered by Care At Hand and we broke down the issues and the interventions,” says nursing student Amanda Angelo. 

After a summer working directly with patients and assisting in developing a transformative medical technology, the nursing students returned to campus with more experience in their major than most people have at the end of their college career. 

“I am so grateful for the opportunity UMass Lowell has given me to work at Elder Services,” Angelo says. “I’ve improved my skills in communicating with patients, preparing documentation and understanding symptoms and common diseases among the elder population. I will be able to use these skills for the rest of my nursing career.”

The nursing students were among 104 rising sophomores who participated in summer Co-op Scholar program, which places high-achieving students in jobs both on and off campus. The students, who were offered spots in the co-op program before they started their freshman year, earned money while getting professional experience in their chosen disciplines.