During the fall semester 2018, ten students from the UAB School of Health ProfessionsHealth Care Management (HCM) program visited Brookdale University Park, a luxury senior living community, multiple times. What began as a learning experience for students to better understand the long-term care structure, soon turned into so much more.

“Both groups came away with something valuable,” said Caleb Townes, junior in the HCM program in the Department of Health Services Administration. “We received insight normally offered only to interns and employees that can be applied and built upon for the coming years. The residents found a renewed voice that holds the power of influence over future generations, and more importantly, a chance to be heard – in other words, a great example of youth learning from their elders.”

The UAB students Noah DeHart, Enyoman Kpomblekou, Emily Long, Kaneisha Green, Lindsy Parsons, Aaron Fazekas, Nick McRae, Radhi Patel, Tina Patel,Taylor Rowe, Walter Fanning, Naanlop Kromtit, and Townes, are all members of the UAB Long-Term Student Group. This new and continuously growing group was initiated by Patrick Nicovich, adjunct faculty member in HCM’s Long-Term Care Administration Track, to provide students interested in careers working with elders an opportunity to provide service while enhancing their learning.

“This newly formed, self-directed group has come together this semester and taken off! What these students learn outside the classroom through interactions with seniors from the Greatest Generation will stick with them for years to come,” said Nicovich. “This experience will enhance their perspectives of older persons regardless of what career field they will eventually enter.”

In the inaugural visit, the students met Mrs. Riva Hirsch, a Holocaust survivor and devout Brookdale University Park Ambassador. That visit saw the same ratio of residents to students, so naturally, each resident claimed their own personal set of ears for the session. Interacting on the individual level allowed for an intimate bond to be formed between resident and student; it promoted a relaxed environment that gave the residents maximum comfort to share incredible life stories.

Mrs. Hirsch and four other residents met with the students on multiple occasions to share their personal experience with Brookdale, their local community, and the world around them.

In subsequent sessions, the students made it clear to the residents that they were the future of healthcare. They knew the residents held firsthand information about what the long-term environment was like and were specifically interested in hearing what the residents would like to see changed or improved upon.

“Understanding that this was their one chance to get whatever was bothering them off their chest, the residents let loose, and it was the best thing we could have asked for,” said Townes. “Hearing the unfiltered opinions and concerns of the individuals receiving care granted our future health care providers, administrators, and executives valuable insight.”

That insight evolved into an opportunity for the students to synthesize solutions to problems before any of them would have to be exposed to the issues in their own careers. The problems they heard included issues of their own and also those of their neighbors. It also included the process of reporting issues internally.

As the world around us is growing increasingly mobile, their world is no different. Although a very rough mock example, the group synthesized the idea of having a quality regulator come to the residents and document concerns that may arise. While just a small idea and concept at this point, it added a level of convenience that some residents may need, and keeping the residents as a first priority is crucial to remaining successful in the healthcare profession.

The UAB Long-Term Student Group is working on more opportunities like this – where students are afforded the chance to be an impact in someone’s life. For anyone interested in joining or supporting the student group, please contact Caleb Townes via email at ct1424@uab.edu.