Nyssa student club brings holiday cheer to the elderly

NYSSA – A Nyssa middle school program that prepares students for health care careers made its first holiday trip to a long term care facility since the onset of the pandemic, visiting with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients on Monday, Dec. 11.

Roughly 20 students with the Nyssa chapter of HOSA-Future Health Professionals presented Christmas cards, wreaths and ornaments to patients at Nyssa Gardens Assisted Living Facility.

Older adults and the immunocompromised, long known to have the highest risk of complications from Covid, including hospitalization and death, were sheltered in place during the pandemic.

With updated vaccines and the slowed spread of the virus, the school holiday visits are resuming this year.

Aundra DeWitt, HOSA co-adviser and a Nyssa school nurse, said the revival of the annual visit gave the 20 patients at the facility much-needed social interactions and the students to get experience in the specialized health care setting.

DeWitt said the students learned about Alzheimer’s and dementia ahead of the trip to prepare for what they might see, experience and how to communicate with the patients.

She said students also went through patient privacy training and learned about the ethical and legal obligations of working in a clinical setting. 

Ally Larson, a sixth grade HOSA student, said spending time with the patients was important, given the isolation many older adults suffered during the pandemic. She and her classmates were excited to pass out the handmade Christmas cards they made for the patients.

She said the students dressed up like elves and were also excited to play games with the patients.

Allysandra Martinez, another sixth grade HOSA student, said she had looked forward to getting the opportunity to gain career experience in a health care setting in addition to visiting with the patients.

Making cards, Christmas ornaments and picking out games to play with the patients was only some of what the students did to prepare for the trip, according to DeWitt.

DeWitt said students get the most out of the HOSA program when they participate in activities such as visiting Nyssa Gardens.

“It’s hard to teach the kids about something they have never seen,” she said. “We need to get them out into the community so they can learn and grow.”

From guest speakers in the health care industry to tours of doctors’ offices and hospitals, the students get insights into health cares, Watts said. 

According to the HOSA website, the international student organization comprises middle school, high school and college students, alumni and other health care professionals.

The club is more popular than ever, growing to 30 students this year, up from 12 in 2022.

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