MSOE and Sisters of St. Francis begin strong relationship during time of isolation
A new partnership between the MSOE School of Nursing and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi is bearing gifts in this time of need. Through MSOE’s “Nursing Care of the Community” class, junior-level nursing students are learning about improving health in the community. By developing a partnership with the Sisters of St. Francis, MSOE students have the opportunity to serve elderly clients. The sisters’ new assisted living facility is now a new clinical site for the class.
Typically, students would visit a community organization or school in person as part of their clinical rotation. But with the COVID-19 outbreak they were forced to take a new approach. This spring, the community care clinical experience shifted to a “phone pal” program where students called the sisters to support them with conversation and companionship over the phone.
“Our students enjoyed the opportunity to let the sisters know they’re valued in the community,” said Robin Gates, assistant professor and community course coordinator. “Through their calls, they were able to offer emotional health support and provide education on the pandemic situation. The students learned how to build relationships within the community. Everything went so well; the students and sisters exchanged email addresses and were excited to schedule additional phone calls.”
“Twenty-five Sisters signed up without hesitation,” said Sr. Jessine Reiss, age 99. “The result is 25 Sisters and 25 students participating in weekly conversations and finding them invigorating and lessening the impact of the coronavirus, leaving each of us with new thoughts, new ideas, and new friends.”
In addition, students learned how to connect with an older population and support and care for them beyond medicine and providing direct medical care. MSOE and the Sisters of St. Francis plan to continue this relationship even after the pandemic ends. Students and sisters are looking forward to meeting one another face-to-face when health and government recommendations allow.
“Pure joy, happiness, and lovely conversation is how I would describe my experience talking to one of the sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. The sisters who live at St. Francis are also having to practice social distancing, just like we are at MSOE. Social distancing can be hard and even frightening, especially for those living in a facility where visitors are no longer allowed,” said Anna Spaude, MSOE nursing student. “Given the circumstances, these phone calls are a highlight for both of our days. She and I have made plans to keep in touch, and eventually for me to come visit her once it is safe to do so. Until then, I look forward to maintaining this newfound friendship through our weekly phone calls and letters in the mail. I am so thankful for my wonderful nursing program for coordinating this opportunity for us.”
The “phone pal” program was created by April Pellmann, adjunct assistant professor and clinical and preceptor coordinator. She introduced the program to Gates’ class this quarter. Based on the overwhelming success, the program has now been introduced in MSOE’s other nursing clinical courses.