Every fall nursing students from McHenry County College’s Nursing Program participate in a rotation at Pioneer Center for Human Services.
Pioneer Center nurses mentor the students for the one-day rotation working with individuals with developmental disabilities. Throughout the day, staff nurses educate and guide students through a client’s health assessments to determine which treatments and services could be added to allow them to reach their full wellness potential.
“We foster the student’s communication and interaction with our individuals who may have deficits in verbal skills or social anxiety,” said Sarah Walker, Nurse Manager for Pioneer Center.
Pioneer Center employs four full-time nurses to care for the needs of over 175 developmentally disabled clients. Everything from wellness, sick, eye, dental, foot and mental health care are tended to on a daily basis. Developmentally disabled individuals are unique from the general population in that they have more medical and emotional needs and see more specialists than the average individual.
The nurses also teach a basic health and safety class and a medication administration class monthly. In addition, they supply input to the planning of state-required goals for each client and instruct clients on how to manage chronic illnesses; for instance a diabetic would learn about nutrition as well as how to inject Insulin. The nurse takes into consideration that a client with special needs takes longer to learn these skills and that repetition is key. Most times special adaptations are needed, as there are vision, hearing and learning issues to overcome.
The MCC nursing program is the only one of its kind to do a rotation in developmental disability nursing skill in Illinois. Teachers in the program work hard to provide a well-rounded nursing clinical experience in the two years students spend in the program. While many of their rotations are in a more traditional hospital setting, there are a few that are based in the community. It is these rotations that give the students a true taste of what lies outside the classroom. As varying as hospital clientele is, it is important to the students to practice their skills on people that will help them learn clinically and provide them with new challenges.
This spring, the student nurses decided to give back to the clients they learned so much from at Pioneer Center. Keeping the focus on The Healthy Living Program, spearheaded by the nurses at Pioneer Center in Residential Developmental Programs, they donated a variety of outdoor activity sets and games to the clients. In addition, gift cards and bottled water were donated.
“I think what we gained from our clinical experience was an awareness of different levels and types of developmental delays and mental health diagnoses and sometimes a combination of the two," said Katie Day, president of the Student Nurse’s Organization at MCC. "These people represent part of our community and with that a unique set of needs. We were taught about medical ailments common within this population, but a lot of what we saw was psychosocial.
"Seeing the clients at Pioneer helped me realize how important routine is and how much being admitted to a hospital can effect them. That fact alone I will carry with me for my whole career. We are lucky to have a place like this in McHenry County,” Day added.
McHenry County College offers a wide range of high‐quality learning opportunities in addition to its nursing curriculum.
For more information, visit www.mchenry.edu.
To learn more about Pioneer Center and its programs, visit www.pioneercenter.org.
— Laurie Bivona, Pioneer Center