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Combining Volunteerism and Scholarship

Monday, February 26, 2018


Tcmeal Assts Group

St. Paul’s welcomed eight Thiel College students in early February to complete the training course required by all who wish to assist our residents at meal-time. The course instructor is Teresa Heckman, Staff Education Coordinator. Heckman also teaches policies and procedures to incoming staff and volunteers and coordinates the campus Annual Retreat that occurs monthly and is mandatory for staff at all levels.

The training for these eight CSD majors was slightly different than normal, though, as they are all currently enrolled in Dr. Nancy Antonino’s class “Communication Disorders in Older Adults.” Dr. Antonino’s classroom lectures and discussions not only cover what Heckman’s training sessions do, but go above and beyond with instruction and discussion of dysphasia—the medical term used to describe difficulty swallowing.

Students participated in three classes focusing on normal and abnormal swallowing.  After completing the class time orientation, students witnessed a lunch service to become familiar with St. Paul’s meal-time procedures. These experiences were then reviewed in class. “There are many different scenarios,” Heckman said, “some of our residents need total assistance and others just need a little help or reminders.” 

The students are learning the clinical aspects of meal assistance and also gaining understanding that every resident situation is unique. Students tasted nectar and pureed food and drink to experience the texture and tastes that some residents have on a daily basis.

They reviewed the diet cards at each resident seat that list allergies, adaptive equipment (plate guards, curved utensils or particular cups, etc.) or supplements needed; and the highly recognizable orange cards that indicate a swallowing precaution and that particular resident can only be assisted by nursing staff.

The students may opt to use their volunteer hours to satisfy the “Citizenship Requirement” for Thiel College graduation. Graduates with a degree in CSD can pursue careers as speech and language pathologists, audiologists, teachers or clinical assistants. Antonino reminded her students that “no matter where you work, you should always establish a close relationship to the dietitians so that you know and are familiar with specifics for each resident or patient.”

Later in the spring semester, the class will visit with our residents at The Ridgewood for a “Maintain Your Brain” activity. “The students plan the activity and learn how to present ideas to an aging population,” said Antonino.