Community Engagement Project

Community Engagement Project:
Incorporating Socialization in the Healing Process
Christine Hymas
Concordia University
The Problem
The community engagement project that I chose to dedicate my time to was certain patients in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). During clinicals and as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) my purpose was to help and care for patients during their stay and as they heal. What I have found is that health includes multiple areas of life. Health comprises mental, spiritual, and social well-being. I was able to spend an extend amount of time with certain patients within these facilities. Throughout my time I was able to care for patients during their stay and watch them try and heal. I believe other things can be done to further promote the healing process.
During my time I saw that there was a communication disconnect between the staff and patients and from patient to patient, nobody was really socializing. I noticed the lack of socialization within the facility during my first shift. The staff is very busy and slightly overworked, they do not have an adequate amount of time to spend with patients to get to know them or show them therapeutic compassion which can help in the healing process. The goal of this project is to initiate a program dedicated to therapeutic communication amongst the patients living at the SNF. The program would incorporate more personal and intimate interactions with the patients to aid in the healing process.

Implementing Community Service
Catalyzing a Commitment to Community Service in Emerging Adults is a study that was conducted by Scott Seider. The study discussed the effects of community service participation in college students. Seider believed that students who participate in community service in college were more likely to continue participating in it after college. He believed that community service makes the world a better place. His purpose was to open the eyes of people who are thinking only of themselves. Because Concordia University is affiliated with the church, students are required to take a handful of religion courses. During these courses, I realized that the courses focused less on reading scripture and talking about what God believes is right and wrong but was more focused on how to incorporate God’s guidelines in our own lives. We were asked to look at a problem in our everyday life and think of how we can help the problem and try to come up with a solution. Concordia University and this Faith for Life class wanted to incorporate Seiders idea of community service by giving us this assignment. We were asked to reflect on service and encouraged to serve others in a way that we choose, in a field that we are interested in. This allows students to show more interest and commitment to the project because it is something we are passionate about. The students are asked to participate in a community service project of their choice, allowing us to engage in a project we enjoy, and may continue after graduation. What I have gathered from this project, is that is wanted to open the eyes of students and show us that we always have the option to serve others. I believe that this the purpose of the assignment which is to see an issues within our own personal community and figure out how to fill them with God’s love. We can do that by simply being ourselves, using what we are drawn to, and doing what we believe is right. This was the focus of Seider’s study. His goal was to encourage college students to help others. His theory was by helping others, you become a better person. Seider wanted students to leave college as good wholesome individuals who contributes to society and wanted young adults to experience the joy in helping others. I expected this project to just be another community service requirement like the ones I had during the Catholic School I attended. But, to my surprise I enjoyed the assignment and it felt really good to give back to these patient who needed my service. “Service vs. serve-us” was one of the foundation of this course. We are encouraged to serve others. People who serve others show a sense of humility, which is to be humble. This course and its content led us to truly understanding the why behind this project which is to put others first and ourselves second. This project helped me look at service differently and helped me feel more empowered about giving good patient care. Although this is a required course, this community engagement project was created to inspire us. We are encouraged to not only be selfless but reflect on times of selfish and selflessness. I enjoyed that this project was student driven so it could be individualized for every person and I could pick what I wanted to do. This course helped me see what defines God’s purpose which is to be a good person, rather than just read scripture. This class is helpful because it allows students to interpret the meaning of God instead of using force, by pushing us into certain ideas.
The Goal
During nursing school, I worked as a Student Nurse at a facility in Gladstone. As a student nurse we spent most of the time doing patient care and helping residents perform daily activities. I worked with the Avamere long term facility for my project. The mission of this organization is to “enhance the life of every person we serve.” This organization is serving patients that are healing and rehabilitating in a post-acute care setting. This facility will hopefully help them have a smooth transition back to normal life. I hope to bridge the social gap that is missing in this facility that I have seen firsthand, and in other facilities just like it. The social gap I am referring to is allowing these residents to share their stories, get to know someone, and create meaningful relationships. Working as a student nurse and being with the staff I notice, we didn’t have a ton of time to socialize with our residents. I hope to go around and visit with the patients of this facility, maybe read with them or do whatever they want to do. My proposal is to offer my individual services by giving my time to visit and talk with each resident that is interested in doing so with me. These patients are scared and not feeling well, and some don’t have any family or friends to help out. I would like my personal efforts to eventually amount to a program that can be implemented. I also want to encourage residents to talk among each other. This will help create an environment that is centered around community and sharing time with one another. Being elderly and sick can be very terrifying and having someone to talk to and connect with is extremely important in the healing process. In order to have a successful outcome, I will have to put others before myself. I need to be attentive to their needs and what they are going through, not just physically, but emotionally. This community project will allow me to work on my listening skills, communication skills, and be able to see a different approach to the healing process. These people have lived long lives, the least I can do is listen, comfort, and encourage them. I will also be able to learn a lot from their life experiences. Humility in this project is recognizing the vulnerable state these residents are in and providing them care. Because of confidentiality laws associated with all healthcare facilities, I focused my interviewing efforts on the people who are assessing and monitoring the patients within Avamere first. I interviewed a few of the nurses who I worked with directly and asked them a few questions regarding the social interactions they witnessed or took part in while at work. The two nurses that I spoke with noticed that many of the patients within the facility don’t have many visitors coming and going, and some have none at all. Both nurses agreed that there was a social void that needed to be filled but didn’t have time to start on that void. I was able to get approval from the nurses to come in and dedicate my own time by spending time with the patients who needed more social interaction. I went in on three consecutive Wednesdays to speak with the patients who the nurses thought needed it most. After visiting with the patients, both the staff and I noticed positive changes in the mood of the patients that I spent time with. It gave the patients someone to vent to and someone to express emotion to. I listened to their concerns, their stories, and their lives which was so interesting and inspiring. It can feel extremely lonely when you are put in these isolated rooms where you are uncomfortable, especially when you’re recovering from a surgery, injury, or illness. The process of healing can be challenging, but I do think that I was able to make a positive impact on the patients who I worked with. I would have liked to chat with every patient, to learn and see different ranges of sickness and loneliness, but there was quite a bit of turnover and or appointments that took priority. But, I do believe that my initial interviews with the nurses and staff allowed them to take a second look at socialization in regard to the healing process. I hope the SNF saw the positive impact I was able to make in a short period of time, and that they develop a permanent program to provide social interaction for the patients in the facility.
I wanted to share my finding with the case managers, but they were rarely in the facility, always in meetings and on conference calls, so I couldn’t explain what I was doing. Instead, I spoke with the nurses who work with the patients directly. The nurses were excited for me to come in and have private conversations with their patients because it made their job easier. I had previously worked with the nurses here which I am sure gave me a better opportunity of getting to actually implement my project. The nurses were very open to any help they could get. I would say that my project was successful due to the positive reactions I received from the patients and the nurses. The patients rarely got more than a five-minute conversation with the employees at the SNF which usually included medical issues, medication, and tasks related to their health and nothing about their personal life. I measured my success by the reactions from the patients which is far from scientific but a good gauge of success. I believe my presence made the patients feel important, valued, and heard. I consider my project a success, but it is only a start. There needs to be permanent resources for the patients at the SNF. I would like the program to have several workers who go around and chat with the patients, so everyone can be heard during their stay. I also want to implement a program that encourages residents to interact with one another. This can be done by having more opportunities for the patients to come together as a whole and find that sense of community that is lacking.
Critical Reflection
This project taught me a lot about social interaction and myself. The bulk of my project focused on communication. Therapeutic communication was used to benefit the patient in meeting their social needs as well as verbalizing their fears or concerns throughout their stay at the SNF. This project was helpful to patient and allowed me to see the importance of some of the issues we discussed. One of the first topics that we discussed in this course was humility, which is when a person consistently put others before themselves and serves them without expecting anything in return. Throughout the Community Engagement Project, I got to apply my understanding of humility and service. The conversations that I had with the people in the facility was humbling. The patients revealed so much personal information about their upbringing and the experiences they faced while moving through different stages of their life. Brookes states “Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong (Brooks 2015.)”  I like this idea because there was so much I did not know about this ill population and what I thought I knew was wrong. Humility takes out judgement and allows you to be present and go in with an open mind. I felt honored that they were willing to share just a small piece of their life with me. I spoke with one patient who share the hardships he faced as a father who lost his daughter at a young age and months later he was diagnosed with a crippling disease called Multiple Sclerosis. The father found his own daughter deceases and admitted that he never really recovered from that moment. After hearing this story, I realized how truly blessed I am to have my parents and siblings. It allowed me to apply my understanding of Adam I versus Adam II that Brooks opens up his book with in “The Road to Character”. Brooks refers to Adam I as the side of humans that is focused on materialistic things and personal success. Adam II is the side of humans that is focused on helping others and being a better person. This showed me that Adam II and Adam I both have a purpose, but there is a balance between them. My goal was to have my Adam II come through more than my Adam I during this project. Adam I was the organizer and gave this project structure and Adam II was where I got to give my listening ear and feel out what I wanted to do for this assignment. My Adam II was fulfilled during this project. I was humbled by the stories they shared and was so surprised how my thinking of them being sick was wrong and distorted. These patients lived such full lives. I wanted the patients to know that I was there to help them and not do this because I had to. I gained so much from this project and it helped me see we are all here trying to get by with the help of God or whomever else you serve. I became an active listener, listening to process rather than to respond which we learned from Inazu who stated, “Through tolerance, humility, and patience, we can listen and learn from other perspectives, engage, and be active participants in our communities, and find common ground even if not fully aligned” (Inazu 2016). We are not fully aligned because I am not sick, but we were able to find a common area to connect and learn about each other. By the end of this project, I realized that not all needs are verbalized but expressed through other ways of communication. It reminds me that people who are struggling may not always show it. The goal of the facility is to enhance the lives of every person they serve. I am playing a role in the mental and emotional healing of the patients, which is a side that is more commonly missed in the process of physically healing people and in routine medical care. This will help the organization by providing a new aspect of healing and it helps the patients by giving them someone to talk to. Many of the stories I heard were tough to listen to, but I was happy to be there for the patient. I tried my best to not express my feelings and was just there to listen because I did not want my ego to get in the way of the patients healing.
As Romans 12.1-3 states:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This passage is important in relation to service over serve-us. I believe that this verse is talking about a call to commitment, a commitment to serve others. We are called to action and called to worship. We are urged to engage in the service of worship. There is a calling for commitment by leading a life of service. This verse helps show us what humility means and that service is more important than serve-us. I attempted to lead my project with the same sense of humility. Service is important to the Christian lifestyle because it fulfills the goal of being compassionate, committed, and a selfless human being. We were put on this earth to make each other better, to serve each other, while also serving God. To serve others is to let God work through us and in a way that we can show our own individual love and passion. Like Smith stated “Your deepest desire is the one manifested by your daily life and habits. This is because our action—our doing—bubbles up from our loves, which, as we’ve observed, are habits we’ve acquired through the practices we’re immersed in (Smith, 2016).”  The world is a better place because everyone brings their own ideas of passion and love. I do not have the same passion as my other classmates and that is what allows us to be diverse yet connected. I learned about the importance of communication and how it is essential for understanding each person individually. All relationships begin with communication, and throughout this project I learned that people express their needs in more ways than one, and they express their fears differently than I do. I think Inazu explains it perfectly, “Confident pluralism allows genuine differences to coexist without suppressing or minimizing our firmly held convictions (Inazu, 2016).” This project has taught me so much about the way I interact with others, communication is how we connect with one another and express ourselves. In the healing process, communication is key. The mental well-being of a patient is just as important as the physical well-being. When I decided on this topic for my project, it didn’t take me long because I believe it is a part of my calling. I want to serve others. The career I chose to pursue as a Registered Nurse. This is closely related to who I am and what I enjoy doing. After reading the books assigned we were asked to look at the difference between a calling and a vocation, I believe that there is a balance between the two. Like Veith states, “According to the Reformers, each Christian has multiple vocations. We have callings in our work. We have callings in our families. We have callings as citizens in the larger society. And we have callings in the Church (Veith, 2002).” This work allows me to be of service and a citizen to those in a larger society that needs help and resources. I believe that there are vocations in my work, but I also choose this work and I am excited to see where it takes me. I am thankful for this opportunity that I was “forced” into because it helped me see how important communication, socialization, and good patient care is in order to allow patients to heal fully.
Brooks, D. (2015). The road to character. New York, NY: Random House
Inazu, J. D. (2016). Confident pluralism surviving and thriving through deep difference.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seider, S. (2007). Catalyzing a Commitment to Community Service in Emerging Adults. Journal
of Adolescent Research, 22(6), 612-639. doi:10.1177/0743558407306347
Smith, J. K. (2016). You are what you love: The spiritual power of habit. Grand Rapids, MI:
Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Veith, G. (2002). God at work: Your Christian vocation in all of life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.