Nursing Students Find a New Side to Their Patients Through Life Journals
When a loved one has died, old photos and stories from their life keep their spirit with us.
Too often, however, we are caught up in day-to-day living and don’t spend much time thinking about the lives our parents and grandparents lived before we came into the picture.
Our Life Journal program changes that by pairing the patient with a volunteer who interviews them and collects their photos, memories, and stories into a book for the patient’s family to treasure for generations to come.
In many cases, we partner with universities where students serve as our Life Journal volunteers.
One such partnership is with the students of the Park University Nursing Program.
“All our students are licensed practical nurses (LPN) pursuing their degree as a registered nurse (RN). An RN must be able to listen and take it outside the hands on. The Life Journal project makes them learn to sit and be patient to hear the story,” says Dr. Gerry Walker, Chair of the Park University Department of Nursing.
Many members of the medical profession see people as their condition and focus on that. “The students in the Life Journal learned to focus on the person, not the patient.”
“As the program unfolded, there were other benefits for our students. They learned time management and how to set priorities. Things you just can’t teach,” Dr. Walker explains.
The students also gain a greater understanding of hospice. According to Dr. Walker, “Many had no concept that patients on hospice could be out living and enjoying life and smiling.”
For Walker, the program is a chance to have a profound impact. “If you have a student,” she says, “you have the opportunity to change their lives. Students recorded that change in their project reflections. Many say that the experience has made them dedicated to living every day to their greatest capacity.”
The biggest challenge for students is not getting the stories, but scheduling appointments. Many students work full time as LPNs and have children. But again and again, they tell Walker, “Once I got past the first visit, it wasn’t an assignment anymore. It was a labor of love.”
The Life Journal program has become so popular at Park University that almost every nursing student now participates.
Walker shares, “There is a broad spectrum of life experience in our program. The youngest students are 20 years old, the oldest is in their 60s. They go from LPNs to RNs in 10 months.”
“The Life Journal program is a unique experience and an excellent way to plunge into their next opportunity as RNs. They learn to balance professionalism and emotional risk while being supported by nudged toward self-sufficiency,” Dr. Walker explains.
The next Life Journal class at Park University begins in August.
If you need more information on hospice or our Life Journal program, please call us at 888-564-3405 or visit our website.
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