Senior Health Promotion Center in Lincoln, Nebraska
Everywhere I look in this large room in the basement of the Aging Partners agency in downtown Lincoln, I see feet being soaked, examined, nails trimmed, and medicated when necessary. I take my feet for granted as long as they get me where I want to go but as we age, our feet take on increased importance for everyday health and our long term wellness. That’s where the work of the Senior Health Promotion Center becomes so critical in the lives of the seniors who line up to see the nurses during clinic.
In addition to the eight already in the room, there are 20 more in the queue. Rita Antonson, MSN, APRN is the director of the center which began in 2000 as a community health nursing project for students from the College of Nebraska, Lincoln campus. Since that time, the College has used this center as a clinical training site for every baccalaureate student. Rita deftly coordinates the student teaching with service delivery to these low income seniors who are transported by family, friends, and the Aging Partners’ vans to the clinic.
The center’s work includes far more than feet. Each patient receives ear care (wax removal), screening for cholesterol, blood sugar, osteoporosis, and blood pressure. Rita and her team also review all medications that each senior is taking. Each of these activities provides opportunity for health teaching and cognitive assessment. Medication review, for example, may reveal that the patient is confused about how and when to take their meds. This might be a red flag for safety and could result in a call to family for support or to the primary care provider.
The Aging Partners agency houses this health promotion center and coordinates health education, transportation and outreach for the clinical work. Tracie Foreman, community health educator, works closely with Rita and the students. In the summers, Tracie hires retired registered nurses to fill the roles left vacant by students who are on break. Elva, one of the retired RNs working on the day of my visit, said, “the volume of patients keeps us hopping all day!”
What seems like a mundane thing– washing feet–is actually a foundation for better health and improved quality of life for hundreds of seniors living in Lincoln. This integration of nursing education with vital community health services is a win- win for everyone.