Village News‎ > ‎

Be Proud of Our Villagers In Action

posted Nov 27, 2013, 6:20 AM by William Brooks   [ updated Nov 27, 2013, 6:27 AM ]
MARLBORO — When the next group of nurses heads from Assabet Valley Technical School into the working world, they will have gleaned some hands-on, real patient experience, thanks to a group of West Boylston residents.

Aging Well Day recently reached its fourth year at the school, according to Ellen Santos, director of practical nursing. It allows students in both the high school health tech program and adult students in the practical nursing program to do full assessments of senior citizens who volunteer their time.

In a world where seniors are living longer and staying active, the experience helps prepare the students for work as a triage nurse, or for a doctor's office or assisted living facility.

"They (patients) receive a physical exam and get interviewed," Santos said. "It helps the students get a feel for older patients who are living well and who are independent."

The interview skills and the ability to do an examination on a real patient are items that are unable to be replicated in a normal classroom experience, Santos said.

"The students, at this point, have minimal experience with patients, and they are getting ready to go out to work in hospitals," she said. "This is an opportunity for a real patient to talk to them."

For the last four years, those patients have come from Angell Brook in West Boylston, thanks to Ann Walsh, an Angell Brook resident, retired nurse and former instructor at the school.

Walsh said she supports the program because it helps create a more experienced pool of nurses, which is better for student and patient. It also reconnects her to a part of her career she said she truly enjoyed.

"This is an opportunity to come back into teaching and an opportunity to give these students some everyday experience," Walsh said, noting the adult students might have nursing home experience, but little experience with active seniors. "This is an opportunity for them to see and talk to a person who can really describe what is going on with them."

High School senior Luke Moylan, of West Boylston, was among the health tech students assigned to a patient assessment team this year. He said he enjoyed the practical aspect of the program, which included learning the patient's past history and how to cope with matters that may come up during an exam.

"It's much more than just sitting in a normal classroom," Moylan said. "This is so much more hands-on."

The patients, Walsh said, started with a group of friends at Angell Brook. This year, 14 residents attended, including Phil Mallet, who said he volunteered after having his own medical problems. This marked his fourth year as a volunteer patient.

"I've learned the value of people like this (nurses and support staff)," he said. "Consequently, I'd do anything I can to help them with their education."

Practical nursing student Marly Desir, of Boylston, is already a nurse, but is looking to move further along in her career, which could include geriatric nursing. Assabet is the first leg of expanding her education, she said. Aging Well Day is a program that definitely helps, she said, because it gives her the opportunity to talk to a patient and do screenings in a relaxed atmosphere.

"This is a great, great opportunity to learn," Desir said. "You learn so much. After this, you have a base to go forward. I would encourage anyone who wants to be a nurse to start here."

Santos noted the difference for students is being able to do a screening in a non-stress situation, unlike what may happen at an emergency room, or even in a doctor's office. It's hard to learn in an atmosphere where patients expect the nurses to already know their job well, she said.

"When you're a patient, you have certain expectations," she said. "Here, you can make those (learning) connections. And the volunteers are so happy to give back. It's all about helping the nurses, which is great for us."

Anyone interested in either the Aging Well Day or the practical nursing program can, contact Santos at

By Michale Kane Editor