We are currently in the fourth year of our partnership with Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof College of Nursing. Our relationship with GVSU began in the fall of 2014, and has continued to grow ever since. Each fall and winter semester, a different group of third year nursing students fulfill part of their educational requirements at Meals on Wheels Western Michigan. Working alongside our staff, volunteers, and recipients, the students spend 5 weeks with us, completing their community health rotation. The goal of this rotation is to expose the students to the realities of the community in which they live. With over 1,900 home delivered meal recipients and over 1,800 dining site meal recipients, the exposure the students receive to Kent County’s older population is immense.

The students participate in a number of roles throughout their time with us. The most popular of their experiences is to conduct, along with one of our in-home assessors, mandatory in-home assessments of homebound seniors. This assessment process must be done twice a year, determining eligibility, updating health information, identifying potential hazards, and connecting clients to other community resources. As of October of this year, the GVSU student nurses have helped us complete a total of 520 assessments. The students continue to state how valuable it is to be able to visit with people in their own homes as opposed to a more traditional clinical setting. Their eyes have been opened to the harsh realities that so many Kent County seniors face.

In addition to the in-home assessments, the students also spend time delivering meals with one of our drivers and visiting one of our dining sites. Both of these opportunities allow the students to interact with a large number of seniors. At a dining site, the students eat lunch while socializing with the diners, as well as offer free blood pressure checks to those that attend.

We are so thankful for the relationship that we have built with GVSU and the remarkable students we meet each semester. With the older adult population more than doubling in the next 20 years, geriatric care will continue to grow alongside it. Not only are we able to be a part of nursing students’ educational experiences, but they continue to help us improve our services, as well as spread our mission. We look forward to many more exceptional years with Grand Valley’s nursing students!