HCC nursing student Jennifer Williams has worked with real-life patients before -- as part of her clinical rotations at Holyoke Medical Center. But, before she and her classmate Ryan Hernandez lead a health seminar this week at the Holyoke Senior Center, she had never worked with so many at one time.
"I felt good about it," said Williams, who will receive her associate degree in nursing in May from Holyoke Community College. "I like the community atmosphere."
Williams and Hernandez gave a presentation about hypertension -- high blood pressure -- to nearly two dozen senior citizens Wednesday. This was the second of four scheduled visits students in HCC's RN (registered nursing) program will make to the center this semester. Each month, a different pair of students talks about a health-related topic of relevance to the elderly, such as atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), strokes and high cholesterol.
The eight students are all enrolled in the course "Complex Nursing Care Across the Lifespan" with HCC professor Audrey Kilcoyne.
Kilcoyne arranged the visits to the senior center through one of her former students, Cherelyn Roberts, HCC Class of 1995, a registered nurse at Holyoke Medical Center and one of her former students.
"I said, 'This is what I'm trying to do; we can all collaborate together," said Kilcoyne. "I wanted my students to have an experience working in the community."
Kilcoyne incorporated the visits into her course as a Service Learning project, an HCC program that fosters education through community service.
She picked the four seminar topics based on course material.
"Our course is about complex care," she said. "These are chronic diseases we can either help people manage or prevent."
Kathy Blanchard, the health promotion coordinator for Holyoke Senior Center, said the health seminars have been well attended, despite competing events during the same midday time slot.
"The students have done a fabulous job," Blanchard said.
Claire Grenier, 86, who lives in Holyoke, said she enjoyed the talk.
"It was very good," she said. "Very informative."
After the the seminar, Williams, the students conducted free blood pressure screenings for the seniors.
Photos: (Left) HCC nursingJennifer Williams, 29, of Springfield, talks about the dangers of high blood pressure at Holyoke Senior Center. (Right) Nursing student Ryan Hernandez, 25, of Springfield, show seniors a blood pressure monitor. (Thumbnail) Holyoke resident Claire Grenier, 86, has her pulse taken by HCC nursing student Sheila Prendergast.