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Senior Volunteers Help Nursing Students Hone Clinical Skills

Nurse examining an old womanThe College of Nursing’s Nursing Clinical Education Center (NCEC) provides 20,000 square feet of cutting-edge clinical simulation lab space where students experience sophisticated and complex nursing care in a variety of specialty and clinical situations.

A few years ago, the lab course design team decided to enhance the NCEC experience by adding a new type of simulated skills activity. The College of Nursing partnered with Elder Services, Inc. (ESI), an agency in Iowa City that is responsible for the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), an initiative where adults 60 years and older come together to make an impact on their community through volunteer work.

One of the activities RSVP volunteers routinely participate in is playing the role of the patient for health science students, including UI College of Nursing students. UI’s Carver College of Medicine and the College of Pharmacy also utilize the program. The primary goals of the RSVP event are for students to complete a head to toe assessment; provide patient education, and enhance their communication skills.

Nurse examining an old womanThis year, more than 60 RSVP participants ranging in age from 60 to 104 were paired with students who completed a relevant health assessment and delivered an educational intervention about a particular condition (this year’s ailment was influenza). Each volunteer was then asked to complete a survey (which focused on communication and safety) about their interaction with the students. After feedback from the survey is relayed to the students they are required to complete a follow-up reflection assignment.

“I really enjoy seeing how the students have grown over the course of the semester in their assessment and communication skills,” said Margaret (Peg) Hyndman, MSN, RN. “The RSVP volunteers return each semester because this event is so enjoyable!”

The objective of this partnership is to provide opportunities to enhance communication for an evolving patient-centered system.

 “Most undergraduate nursing students are under 25 years old and they need to practice skills in obtaining health history information, performing non-invasive health assessment skills and providing health education on a person who has more life experience or health history,” said Joan Cook, former director of RSVP. “The intergenerational experience helps nursing students gain confidence in communicating with clients while dispelling some myths about older adults.”

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Elder Services, Inc. provides programs, services, and resources to assist persons age 60 and over in Johnson county and east central Iowa to stay active, independent, and safe in their own homes. For more information, visit

Posted On: 
Apr 25th, 2017