McHENRY – Every fall nursing students from McHenry County College’s nursing program participate in a rotation at Pioneer Center for Human Services.
Pioneer Center nurses mentor the students for a day, educating and guiding them through a client’s health assessments to determine which treatments and services will allow individuals with developmental disabilities to reach their potential. These clients generally have more medical and emotional needs and see more specialists than the average individual.
“We foster the student’s communication and interaction with our individuals who may have deficits in verbal skills or social anxiety,” Pioneer Center Nurse Manager Sarah Walker said.
Pioneer Center has five nurses to care for the needs of more than 175 developmentally disabled clients in the residential program. Everything from wellness, sickness and eye, dental, foot and mental health care are tended to on a daily basis. And their responsibilities continue when individuals return to one of 13 group homes around the county.
“It’s not like school nursing. It’s 24-7; New Year’s Eve, quarter to 12 at night we get calls,” Walker said.
Nurses also teach a basic health and safety class and a medication administration class monthly – for clients and their families. And they help plan the state-required goals for each client and instruct clients on how to manage chronic illnesses. For instance, a diabetic would learn about nutrition as well as how to inject Insulin. The nurse takes into consideration that a client with special needs takes longer to learn these skills and that repetition is key. Most of the time special adaptations are needed, as there are vision, hearing and learning issues to overcome.
Walker said the MCC nursing program is the only one of its kind to do a rotation in developmental disability nursing skill in Illinois.␚ Although she would welcome weekly visits for an entire semester, Walker said she is grateful for the help from second-year nursing students.
“It’s a really cool thing,” Walker said. “Many schools do not address the needs of the developmentally disabled. They get to experience a lot of things that new nurses wouldn’t see.”
This spring, student nurses decided to give back to the clients they learned so much from at Pioneer Center. Keeping the focus on The Healthy Living Program, spearheaded by the nurses at Pioneer Center’s residential developmental program, they donated a variety of outdoor activity sets and games to the clients. Gift cards and bottled water also were donated.
“I think what we gained from our clinical experience was an awareness of different levels and types of developmental delays and mental health diagnoses and sometimes a combination of the two,” said aide Katie Day, president of the Student Nurse’s Organization at MCC. “These people represent part of our community and with that a unique set of needs. We were taught about medical ailments common within this population, but a lot of what we saw was psychosocial.
“Seeing the clients at Pioneer helped me realize how important routine is and how much being admitted to a hospital can affect them,” she said. “That fact alone I will carry with me for my whole career. We are lucky to have a place like this in McHenry County.”
To learn more, visit www.pioneercenter.org.