The IHP’s annual Community IMPACT Day brings together more than 500 student and staff volunteers while emphasizing interprofessional education
As she stood by bins and bins of clothes, IHP student Eliza Koso could only marvel at the process involved – sifting through the clothes to make sure what was donated was of high enough quality to go be worn again, sorting into appropriate sizes and ages, then boxing up them up for transport.
“I think it's really great to be able to do things that are non-medicine connected, said Koso, a second--semester Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, “because there's so much in our communities that you can do beyond medicine to help people out. And so being able to do something like this, which is more focused on general community impact, is great. This behind-the-scenes part of it – seeing how items get from the donation box to the kids – is really cool.”
Koso and a team of 18 other volunteers spent the annual Community IMPACT Day at the Newton headquarters of Cradles to Crayons, a non-profit that distributes needed items to disadvantaged children in the region. Made up of student, faculty and staff volunteers, the teams were deliberately built to bring students from different fields together to work in an interprofessional manner.
“It's teamwork,” said Chiara Campanella, a first-year Master of Science in Nursing student who was sorting children’s clothing into bins. “Each of us chose different roles. Some are sorting, some are checking the quality, some are moving the bins. It's just teamwork which is we're going to be doing in healthcare – working together regardless of what our job is.”
Bringing together different experiences and educational backgrounds where students can learn from each other is what interprofessional education is all about. Because team-based care results in better patient outcomes, interprofessional education is a hallmark of the Institute. Having students participate in a day of service incorporating teamwork is most appropriate in their IHP educational career.
“I think it really highlights the IHP’s commitment to community service and to bringing professionals together,” said Kim Mace, Director of the online Prerequisites program and one of the IHP volunteer leaders at Cradles to Crayons. “And I think that's an important thing for our students to see up front and then hopefully, continue to have modeled throughout their program and then throughout their professional journey.”
On this day, the volunteer journeys were numerous – 64 teams spreading goodwill to organizations in Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop, and Newton. In all, more than 500 students (mostly first-year) and staff volunteered at more than two dozen locations including new sites of service that included Chelsea Elder Services, Charlestown High School, and New Health community center in Charlestown.
“The day was a success thanks to an amazing team of faculty, staff, and volunteers, as well as our students!” exclaimed Dr. Midge Hobbs, Director of the school’s IMPACT Practice curriculum, who organized the event. “Community IMPACT Day is such a great way to showcase two of our IHP values: interprofessionalism and service.”
Hobbs said the day’s success wouldn’t have occurred without the efforts of Heather Easter, Ellen Foley, Yolanda Mendez Rainey, and Rachel Rubin, who worked tirelessly for months to set up and execute these service activities.
At the Shouse Building on the IHP’s Charlestown campus, at least a half-dozen teams were tasked with creating fun and engaging arts and crafts kits that will be delivered to families who are currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House, a non-profit providing comfort, care, and support for families with children from around the world who are sick.
“This has been very therapeutic for us, and I know it will be for the children as well,” said Ronny Batista, a class of 2026 Master of Science in Nursing student. “I hope that these kits will make them smile and distract them for a bit from what they’re going through.”
At the Harvard Kent Elementary School in Charlestown, IHP volunteers kept students busy with physical activities that included scooter hockey, an obstacle course, and rock and birdhouse painting. Laughter could be heard throughout the gym as children were having fun while learning team building and how to follow instructions. There was an agenda to the exercise and activity: studies show only 25% of children get a healthy amount of physical activity each day.
“The kids are having a great time and really don’t care about who’s winning, which shows that they just enjoy and appreciate the activity,” said Tara Ferraro, a second-semester Doctor of Physical Therapy student, as she monitored a hula hoop obstacle course the children were maneuvering. “This activity helps us build communication skills with the other facilitators, our supervisors, and the kids. As we’re going through this, we have to figure out how the kids need to be worked with, and we have to adapt and even sometimes change the rules to fit their needs. This reflects what we’ll have to do in our careers.”
Nearby on Chelsea Street, IHP students and staff cleaned up garbage from under the Tobin Bridge.
“It’s fun to get out and moving and doing stuff in the community, and when it’s over I’m sure we’ll feel a nice sense of accomplishment,” said Emily Cudhea Pierce, a first-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy student. “Earlier, I cleaned a few blocks by myself and then the team came in to help and there was a moment of real camaraderie.”
Camaraderie was easy to see among the volunteers at the Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston and Winthrop, where the clean-up task was made all the more challenging because of a heavy presence of mosquitos at every turn.
“Well, you know, nothing bonds people like getting eaten alive by bugs together,” quipped Kayla Duvall, a first-year Master of Science in Nursing student. “It'll be good.”
Led by IHP faculty member Sharyn Kurtz, the teams wasted no time scouring the brush leading to the marsh, picking up whatever they could find. The cleanup efforts were part of the COASTSWEEP initiative, which is organized by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). Each September and October, thousands of volunteers collect tons of trash from beaches, marshes, riverbanks, and the seafloor.
“Having collaborative practices and events like this just brings us together and also helps out for the long end for helping a patient as a whole,” said Michael Kasai, a first-year student in the DPT program.
A team of eight students continued a long-standing Community IMPACT Day tradition of working with several seniors at the John F. Kennedy Center in Charlestown on no-sew blankets. BSN student Caitlyn Dwyer was helping Carmen Tirado make a surprise New England Patriots blanket for her grandson, a fourth grader at the nearby Harvard-Kent Elementary School. The pair chatted and shared some laughs while Tirado cut strips that soon would be tied in knots that would become part of the final product.
“I think it’s great to see how we can impact the larger community because during Covid, a lot of older adults felt isolated, so this is a great way to bring people together because maintaining good mental health is so important,” Dwyer said.
Before taking the five-minute walk from campus and under the Tobin to the Kennedy Center, the team did a scavenger hunt where they had to work together to find different answers. These are the first of several experiences they will have during the fall semester to better learn how each profession operates and carry on the IHP’s interprofessional focus that has been a hallmark since the school’s 1977 founding.
“It’s good to be able to chat with students in the other programs and see what they’re doing,” said Ryan Breault, who’s in the physician assistant studies program, “because we all come from different backgrounds and to see the different skills everyone brings is good.”
Added Caitlin Dwyer, “It’s really cool to see how each of us can use effective communication to mitigate the risk for errors because everyone is looking at things with a different perspective.”
To Tara Mansour, an Assistant Professor of occupational therapy who was supervising the students, there were additional benefits to the interaction.
“There are some non-English speakers here, so learning how to use nonverbal communication to interact with them is a great opportunity,” said Mansour, who is the program’s academic fieldwork coordinator. “They’re getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s a great skill to develop.”
The Chelsea Senior Center was full of movement. After a planning session with their team leader, Assistant Professor of physical therapy Christopher Clock, the student team put about two dozen seniors through yoga exercises where they showed the benefits of how doing leg stretches while sitting in chairs and other low-impact movement can go a long way to staying mobile.
Then it was on to the explaining how to use several exercise machines in the community room, which included a treadmill, sitting bicycle, and a weight pulley tower. It was the first time Marjorie Delorey, a spry 95-year-old, had been on a treadmill.
“It felt like the whole machine was moving,” she explained with a smile to Caitlin Prescott, a Doctor of Occupational Therapy student who was supervising the seniors with BSN student Leidis Santana Diaz.
“The Institute talks a lot about how students work together with other programs, so being here is awesome because I’ve learned so much,” said Prescott, who is starting her second semester. “This is the first time not being just in my own cohort so that’s different because I can already tell how we’re all going to work together. This is already making an impact for me.”
For Santana Diaz, becoming a registered nurse is a new path from the one she’s been on since 2019, when she worked in a clinical lab after graduating with a biology degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. After completing her first semester in the BSN program – “It was challenging. It was a lot of work”– she’s looking forward to finishing next May and beginning her new career.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with patients, so I want to be able to build relationships and help them directly,” said the native of the Dominican Republic, who emigrated to the United States when she was 15.
Tracy Nowicki, director of elder services in Chelsea, could only smile as she saw the IHP students working with the seniors. “I really like the intergenerational component because there’s always been a stigma of ageism,” she said. “So, when we’re allowing older adults to work with younger adults, that stigma can melt away, and it allows the students to gain a better perspective of seniors because they’ll be working with them.”
The day’s other volunteer activities included equipment maintenance for the Appalachian Mountain Club; garden maintenance at St. John's Episcopal Church; movement and music activities for children at the Commonwealth Children's Center, Allo Montessori School, and the IHP Children's Quarters; equipment maintenance at Spaulding Rehab Hospital; and creating newsletter content for Tedy's Team and NewHealth.
Back on the IHP campus, volunteers helped organize the new home of the school’s Community Pantry in the Shouse Building.
“This experience has made me more aware of what the IHP does in the community, in the different programs and all,” said Jessica Langston, a student in the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. “Now, my experience here feels much more collaborative.”
And that was the entire idea.
“The experiences give our students an opportunity to practice communication skills and teamwork,” explained Hobbs. “As always, with community service on this scale, a few things always go awry and we have last-minute changes for a partner sites, but this also gives our students opportunities to problem-solve and be flexible and patient, all of which is consistent with the core skills they will need in practice.”
Do you have a story the Office of Strategic Communications should know about? If so, email us at ihposc [at] mghihp.edu.