The University of Arizona's 2018 Student and Older Adult Relationship (SOAR) program recently launched its third year at St. Luke's Home, holistic, assisted-living community. The program brings first year College of Pharmacy PharmD students to St. Luke's to work directly with the Elders.
The program provides students opportunities in areas such as practicing communication and interviewing skills, recording health histories, reconciling medication records, screening for inappropriate medication use and assessing mental health and nutritional needs.
Jenene Spencer, PharmD, College of Pharmacy Instructor and Coordinator of the Tucson SOAR program, praised the innovation of SOAR in the way it combines didactic and experiential opportunities for the students.
Students receive foundations in aging and perspectives from interprofessional geriatrics professionals during class sessions coordinated by Spencer’s colleague, UA faculty member Jeannie Lee, PharmD, with small-group practice using clinical tools of geriatric assessment. The aging principles learned and tools used in class are directly applied during the SOAR sessions where two to three students are paired weekly with two Elders.
"We cannot say enough about how valuable it is for our students to have hands-on experience with Elders," Spencer said. "Many of our students do not have grandparents or other older adults in their lives. The full hour that students have to spend with Elders each week with SOAR is a lot more time than most health care professionals spend with patients. In addition to that, they are practicing their communication and diagnostic skills in a safe, non-rushed environment.”
Students learn not only about medications and diseases, but they also get a history lesson while listening to the Elders’ stories about their lives and living through wars and different decades. Both the students and the Elders open up and develop meaningful relationships and, most importantly, they learn from each other.
St. Luke’s Home CEO L'Don Sawyer noted the benefits SOAR provides for the more than 60 students who have participated.
“The Elders enjoy the energy of the students and have the opportunity to provide meaningful and gentle feedback about their care. They feel useful, needed and valued and also learn about self-care. The Elders always look forward to sharing gains they have made at the next clinic."