Community-Based Collaboration Creates Synergistic Learning Experience

DECEMBER 8, 2014 – A collaborative initiative between Georgetown and Mary’s Center aims to educate medical assistants to work at the latter organization.

BSN alumna Diane Davis (NHS’78), MSN, RN, an instructor in the Department of Nursing at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, has been leading the effort along with colleagues at Mary’s Center, a federally qualified health center in Washington, DC.

“Mary’s Center employs medical assistants across their facilities,” says Davis. “They were starting an in-house training program for members of the community to become qualified for this role and asked us to participate.”

Social Change Model

The organization – which was founded by Georgetown nursing alumna Maria Gomez (NHS’77), MPH, RN – utilizes a social change model that focuses on education, health care, and social services, according to its Web site.

“Mary’s Center’s values set is syntonic with ours,” says Davis. “The social change model is one of social justice and cura personalis. Their work with the medical assistant students supports these individuals to further their education and enhance their employment opportunities. The program also increases the health care workforce capacity within our community, and that relates to our focus on the common good.”

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants are able to perform a variety of tasks under the guidance of a health care professional, ranging from blood pressure screenings and height and weight checks, to administering immunizations and using nebulizers for asthma, Davis says.

At Georgetown, the aspiring medical assistants run through various health care scenarios, developed by Davis with input from her colleagues at Mary’s Center, in the O’Neill Family Foundation Clinical Simulation Center in St. Mary’s Hall.

Current nursing students participate in the educational process by acting as patients or as professional nurses who are facilitating the work of the medical assistants.  

Educational Synergy

“This is really an example of two-way learning,” says Davis, who is pictured at right in a lab coat. “The individuals from Mary’s Center are very engaged adult learners. And it’s a great learning experience for our students to engage in interprofessional education and reinforce concepts they have learned during their own studies.”

Davis notes that this current effort with Mary’s Center grew out of her work with Georgetown’s nursing students at the organization.

The professor takes students there for pediatric clinical education. Last April, students in Georgetown’s chapter of the National Student Nurses’ Association held a health fair at the center. This fall, Georgetown’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau donated stethoscopes to all the soon-to-be medical assistants to use in their practice.

‘Invaluable Experience’

Naomi Sorkin (NHS’15), who is earning her degree through the Accelerated Second Degree BSN Program, has enjoyed working on the initiative.

“The exercise highlighted the great benefit of interdisciplinary training with distinct cadres of health care staff, and I think we all learned a lot from each other,” she says. “With my background in public health, the collaboration has only reaffirmed my decision to become a nurse in order to work with dedicated community health workers to design and implement appropriate interventions focusing on comprehensive and accessible preventative care.”

Workforce Development

Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, the school’s interim dean, praised the collaboration.

“This collaborative effort between Georgetown and Mary’s Center is a solid example of the way the university and the community can collaborate to help address workforce development,” she says. “Mary’s Center has been a steadfast partner in various educational and research initiatives, and I’m thrilled about this new endeavor and the impact it is having on all involved learners.  I especially applaud Diane's creativity and commitment to partnering with the community on innovative learning opportunities.”

‘Sense of Community’

Dara Koppelman, RN, chief nursing officer at Mary’s Center, says this has been a wonderful opportunity for the medical assistant students.

“It gives them the chance to practice skills and scenarios in the simulation lab with nursing students, working with the interdisciplinary team they will function within once they graduate,” says Koppelman, who notes that Mary’s Center educational partner Briya Public Charter School has also been instrumental in this project. 

“They are able to build a sense of community with each other and with the nursing students, while practicing foundational skills and building up their confidence that is necessary before going out in the field and working with real patients,” she says.

By Bill Cessato