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Nursing program at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s recognized for diabetes prevention training by the National Institute of Senior Centers

The nursing program at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University has received nation-wide recognition for a joint effort with several other entities to improve the health of aging populations in Central Minnesota.

The schools’ diabetes prevention partnership with the City of St. Cloud’s Whitney Senior Center, the Central Minnesota Council on Aging and CentraCare Health recently was named the National Institute of Senior Centers’ (NISC) 2022 Program of Excellence Award winner in the intergenerational category.

The collaborative trained 72 sophomore-level nursing students to deliver the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) curriculum.

“We’re the only program in Minnesota that certifies students as NDPP lifestyle coaches,” said Dr. Julie Strelow, chair of the undergraduate nursing program at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s. “We started this in 2017 as a collaborative with community partners to help them get in front of the wave of Type 2 diabetes patients that is expected to come.”

The training, which is part of the nursing program’s required curriculum during the second semester for sophomores, includes four four-hour sessions with Paula Woischke, director of the Whitney Senior Center and a master trainer of the material. The other partners also provide workshop training facilitation.

Students are divided into lifestyle coaching teams, each of which conduct weekly sessions – in person as well as virtually – for 16 weeks with patients diagnosed with pre-diabetes who are in target populations for age and the geographic area in which they live. Participants learn about staying healthy, remaining active and preventing illness. The nursing students helped them design a lifestyle plan. In the process, the students also develop professional skills for delivering such information. At the conclusion of 16 weeks, patients transition to an NDPP post-care phase in which community health workers monitor the participants monthly through the end of the calendar year.

The partnership cultivates future interest in geriatric nursing.

“Our students get the certification, but equally important they learn to understand the struggles this population will face with chronic disease management,” Strelow said. “The insight into that will help them in their careers and strengthen their listening and problem-solving skills. It’s a unique clinical experience in that it’s longitudinal. They develop a relationship with people as opposed to treating the patient of the day. That’s going to have an impact on them going forward. Regardless of what type of care they go on to practice, they’re going to do so differently and better by having this coaching in their foundation.”

Strelow added that some members of the monastic population at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s have participated with the students, who also have conducted health fairs related to fall prevention and other topics important for seniors.

According to the NISC, the intergenerational approach is “innovative and creative” and serves to enhance the students’ resumes while giving older people the chance to learn in a small group setting. Finally, virtual delivery of the NDPP reaches people in rural areas and those with transportation issues who otherwise might not receive the information.

“It’s great to get this validating feedback and we’re always looking for the next way we can innovate for our students’ experience,” Strelow said of the NISC award.

Nursing students at CSB and SJU use state-of-the-art technology as they prepare for a career in health care. The nursing curriculum has a strong emphasis on leadership, diversity, evidence-based practice, and the provision of quality and safe nursing care. Clinical and classroom experiences in these areas support success in a wide range of practice settings. All students also complete a cultural immersion experience locally or internationally. Senior nursing students – this year including the 72 participants who earned the NISC award as sophomores in 2022 – participate in a clinical and leadership intensive capstone that provides the schools’ signature platform for entry to practice.

DPP Nursing Award class

This photo from the Oct. 15, 2021, White Coat Ceremony (since renamed the Pledge Ceremony) shows the CSB and SJU Class of 2024 nursing students. The schools recently received an award from the National Institute of Senior Centers recognizing their work as part of a diabetes prevention program in partnership with the City of St. Cloud’s Whitney Senior Center, the Central Minnesota Council on Aging and CentraCare Health.

Nursing Class of 2024 recognized for work as sophomores

Below are the names of the students comprising the nursing class of 2024 for the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. During the spring semester of their sophomore year in 2022, they participated in a diabetes prevention program with the City of St. Cloud’s Whitney Senior Center, the Central Minnesota Council on Aging and CentraCare Health. As a result of their excellence and innovation, these students and the schools were recognized with an award from the National Institute of Senior Centers.

The students scheduled to graduate this spring are as follows:

Ariana Abraham, Jane Ahmann, Danielle Anderson, Elizabeth Anez, Sabrina Bacchus, Chloe Balder, Jennifer Brand, Corrine Brown, Skylar Burg, Logan Carlson, Anna Cell, Audrey Everson, Taryn Flaherty, Leah Fraher, Isabella Gilman, Shelby Hahn, Anabelle Handt, Bennett Hanson, Isabelle Heim, Keturena Henrich, Molly Herker, Rylie Hess, Kaia Hoiseth, Samantha Imholte, Kendall Johnson, Ellie Jude, Hannah Kennedy, Anne Koslowski, Eryn Kramer, Lana Krautkremer, Emma Kuboushek, Ariana LaPanta, Greta Lieser, Madelynn Lundgren, Ella Madson, Carla Meyer, Ava Miller, Lindsay Mueller, Abby Nelson, Beth Nielsen, Joseph Nordstrom, Kendell O’Leary, Gavin Patton, Teagan Polster, Megan Rasmussen, Alexis Roberts, Katherine Salcedo, Jacob Scepaniak, Presleigh Schrupp, Elizabeth Selisker, Lindsay Smutka, Tate Spinner, Noah Spitzley, Celeste St. John, Reagan Sternquist, Kiarra Summers, Trista Theimer, Megan Van Drehle, Selina Vang, Bao Vo, Abigail Voigt, Hannah Welle, Angela Wenner, Morgan Westre, Samuel Wooten and Hanna Zlab.