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Community-Based Geriatric Nursing Program Benefits Residents at HSL Communities

Video captures intergenerational program in action
Community-Based Geriatric Nursing Program Benefits Residents at HSL Communities

Nursing students begin their careers with the understanding that caring for ill and frail people will include having a large population of seniors as their patients. And while caring for them in times of greatest need is vitally important, they often never have the opportunity to get to know patients as people and relate to their more specific medical needs associated with aging.

Hebrew SeniorLife, along with Curry College and Simmons College, are pioneering an innovative approach to learning that fosters intergenerational interaction between HSL senior communities and nursing students in training. It is an educational partnership in geriatric nursing that brings college nursing students to learn alongside residents about the medical conditions, care and concerns of seniors that they will encounter in their nursing careers. 

Nursing students spend their class time in the community and the student groups are paired with a resident, who not only becomes the subject of their education and inquiry for the duration of the class, but who also becomes a friend. By engaging on a personal level with the residents, they learn firsthand about their life history, their health conditions, discuss prevention and wellness, listening and communication skills and develop a more holistic view of their future patients.

“It’s so much nicer coming here to interact instead of going to a classroom and having a lecture,” said Jessica Ruxton, Curry College nursing student.

Phyllis benAbram, the Simon C. Fireman resident who partners with Jessica, also finds benefits in the program. “I think it’s wonderful and has given me a whole new perspective on life,” She says.

“I know I can ask Phyllis about something and she will tell me – truthfully,” says Jessica. “The residents seem to appreciate that geriatric nursing is now something I will definitely consider.” 

The program started with Curry College, under the direction of Maureen O’Shea Associate Professor of Nursing, and the Simon C. Fireman community in Randolph. “The students interact with the residents, gain a level of comfort, and through conversation and activities, they grow and develop their ability to interact in clinical settings,” said O’Shea.

A grant from The Boston Foundation allowed HSL to expand the program to Simmons College School of Nursing & Health Sciences students who, under the direction of School of Nursing & Health Sciences Dean Dr. Judy Beal, work with our Center Communities of Brookline residents. For the second year Simmons College nursing students visit the senior community to engage on a personal level with the residents, learning first-hand the specific medical conditions, cares and concerns of seniors that they will encounter in their nursing careers. 

“We are privileged to advance educational opportunities for Curry and Simmons College nursing students in our affordable housing sites,” said Kim Brooks, Vice President of Senior Living at Hebrew SeniorLife. “The Boston Foundation's support makes meaningful engagement possible for these students and our seniors and allows Hebrew SeniorLife to fulfill its mission to help educate the next generation of health care professionals.”

“We find our residents are really eager to share their experiences, to teach and to learn with the students.  Our residents feel really proud they can inform the next generation of nurses,” said Mary McCarthy, Simon C. Fireman Assistant Executive Director.

“Through Their Eyes” is a video that captures the on-site intergenerational education experience of Fireman community residents and Curry College students relating how the program has fostered learning, friendships and increased their understanding of the aging experience. Watch it here.  

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