Alpert Medical School (AMS) Virtual Visits with Local Seniors and Elementary Schools Students
With the closure of nursing facilities and assisted living facilities (ALFs) to visitors, many older adults may be suffering in isolation. Isolation and loneliness in older adults are associated with depression, worse physical health outcomes, and even all-cause mortality. Previous research has shown that video conferencing tools can be used by older adults in Assisted Living Sites/nursing home facilities and in the community to help maintain community, connectivity, and combat loneliness/isolation. Additionally, school-aged children have been forced to stay home and abandon their education while our community tries to battle COVID-19. To help battle isolation in the elderly, AMS Virtual Visits (Alpert Medical School Virtual Visits) connects medical students with older adults. Brown medical students (M1s-M3s) and post-baccalaureate students are paired with residents of Assisted Living Facilities in Providence, RI, and are encouraged to virtually connect at least once a week.
AMS Virtual Visits has also partnered with the Greater Providence YMCA (the Y), and student volunteers call about 400 seniors that belong to the Y to ensure they are well and ask if they are interested in receiving boxed dry food through the Y's food donation program. Since CDC's recommendation changed to asking Americans to wear masks when outside, AMS Virtual Visits, the Y, and Brown's PPE Donate group are collaborating to provide cloth masks to older adults from the Y who request one.
To keep local elementary school children and the hundreds of youth belonging to the Y safe and engaged, students are creating educational and engaging videos which will be posted to the Providence Y's YouTube channel and distributed to local elementary schools. Medical and post-bacc students have volunteered to make videos that teach children how to knit, make simple meals, learn a new language, meditate, journal/creative writing, do simple at-home science experiments, and more!
Medical students who volunteer more than 4 hours are eligible meet and can apply to receive credit for the service-learning credit required by Brown. The project was initiated after AMS Virtual Visits founder got approval from AMS deans and Doctoring course leaders. Two Doctoring small group leaders, Anne Quinn (social worker) and Dr. Cheryl Reed (Social Behavioral Specialist) were instrumental in providing support and guidance throughout project development and the development and design of AMS Virtual Visits Facilitation Guide, which is targeted to help older adults and has been distributed to medical schools across the country. So far, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Frank H. Netter, MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, and San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, have referenced/are referencing the facilitation guide to create a Virtual Visits program targeting older adults at their schools. Other medical schools have also expressed interest in joining forces.
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