Community Care Network Helps Students Prepare for Medical School

New program provides invaluable hands-on experience in a hospital setting

November 1, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — College of Wooster students with an interest in medical school and other health-related professions are buzzing about a new program that provides behind-the-scenes access to contemporary medical practices through a partnership with Wooster Community Hospital.

Modeled after a similar venture between Meadville Medical Center and Allegheny College, the new Community Care Network educates students about the importance of interacting with patients and encouraging them to take a proactive role in their own health. In the process, students gain invaluable hands-on experience in dealing with those who have medical issues.

“The purpose is to develop a system for identifying patients with chronic diseases that can benefit from a healthier lifestyle,” explains AlexSandra Davis, special projects manager at Wooster Community Hospital. “The students encourage and monitor the patients as they work toward their goals, while gaining experience in providing care long before they enter medical school. The interaction between the students and the healthcare team will ensure the success of both the network and the health coaches.

Carol Sedgwick, pre-health adviser, who coordinates the program and facilitates the class at the College, describes it as a “win-win” situation. “The students benefit enormously by hearing from and working with healthcare professionals as well as patients,” says Sedgwick. “The hospital benefits from the role that these students play in ‘coaching’ the patients to be more actively involved in managing their health.”

The program features a weekly 90-minute class session in which doctors, nurses, counselors, administrators, and others from the hospital speak about a range of issues, including how to stay ahead of preventable problems like heart disease and diabetes.

At the conclusion of the semester, each of the 29 students in the class will work under the direction of a healthcare team from Wooster Community Hospital to develop a care plan for each of the three patients they are assigned to counsel and support. “The students will visit the patients weekly and encourage them to practice good health habits,” says Sedgwick. “The theory is that patients will be more comfortable, open, and honest with students who act as intermediaries with the ultimate goal being to avoid re-hospitalization. The doctors we’ve talked to see this as being extraordinarily helpful.”

For students, the opportunity to interact with doctors and gain insight into the healthcare system will provide a considerable advantage when applying to medical school. “This is an experience that most students do not get at the undergraduate level,” says Skye Patterson, a junior neuroscience major who plans to attend medical school. “Having a chance to work with patients and get the perspective of doctors is a big advantage that will really be a plus when applying to medical school.”

Perhaps the biggest advocate for the program is Wooster President Grant Cornwell, who says that it fits exactly into the College’s strategic priority of providing more opportunities for students to put their education to work in the world. “Medical schools should look with favor on students who have had real experience,” he said in a recent Wooster Hospital publication. “This should give our healthcare students the edge they need to further their education.”