Indiana State University Newsroom

Accountable care program expands: Nearly 300 students working with health care providers

November 14, 2014

It's a given that doctors, nurses and physician assistants can help keep people healthy and prevent recently discharged patients from returning to the hospital and racking up higher medical bills.

But what about occupational therapists, recreational therapists and psychologists? Is there a role for social workers, health educators and other allied health professionals?

Leaders of a Wabash Valley educational and health care partnership say collaboration across the full spectrum of health care offers the best outcome for patients. That's why they've expanded a pilot program launched in 2013 with physician assistant students to include 274 graduate and undergraduate students from eight Indiana State University programs.

The students are working in the Union Hospital emergency department and at four skilled health care facilities - where patients have been sent upon their release from the hospital.

"Collaboration and inter-professional education is at the core of the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative's mission," said Stephanie Laws, executive director. "It is especially important in today's era of shortages in primary health care providers, and it is vital for patients in underserved rural areas."

Students in a community health nursing class are working with the nursing facilities and the Franciscan Union Accountable Care Organization management team to collect population-based readmission data and diagnoses to provide onsite clinical education in conjunction with the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative Simulation Center.

"The nurses see the patients every day so they see little changes, and it's those little changes that we see that are going to prevent something bigger from happening," said Nicole Sgouroudis, a senior from Lowell who is among four students in the class working with patients at Meadows Manor North and Meadows Manor East.

"This is a diverse opportunity for inter-professional education with a focus on population based health," said Paula Price, program coordinator for the Lifespan Healthy Living Initiative at Indiana State.

Psychology students are involved in the program by conducting mental health assessments of patients in the nursing facilities.

"This is especially important for geriatric patients," said Ruth Viehoff, a third-year student in Indiana State's psychology doctorate program. "We often see medical issues interact with psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety and dementia. Many people have longstanding psychological problems that they haven't received treatment for in their lifetime."

Other students have conducted patient satisfaction surveys for the hospital in its emergency room.

"We've found that patients who are more satisfied with their care are less likely to have return visits to the ER," said Krista Currier of Columbus, Ind., a student in Indiana State's master's degree program in occupational therapy. "It's also a good experience for us to see how occupational therapy could help in the ER and get ideas as to how we could be more involved with primary care. By finding out what sorts of things patients who leave here are having trouble with when they go home, we could teach them how to deal with those problems."

Rebecca Kemen of Carmel, also an occupational therapy student, said, ""It would be good to have an occupational therapist come down to the ER to assess a patient before they are discharged by a doctor, to see whether or not they will need therapy services once they are sent home."

Maggie Hayne, nursing care manager in the hospital's emergency department, said, "The goal was to give students an opportunity to enhance their communications skills at the bedside and ultimately result in an improved learning experience for the students and an improved positive experience for the patient."

Recreational therapy students have met with patients at skilled nursing facilities, including Springhill Village, to assess "if they were happy with their lives, enjoying their life at the village and if there was anything we could address through recreational therapy," said Julia Chaney, a senior from Springville. "With physical therapy they would have to work at it, but in recreational therapy they would have fun while working hard so it would keep them interested and active."

Amanda Engle, a senior from Plainfield, said "recreational therapy treats the patient as a whole. We're not treating them just physically with the ailment that got them there or just mentally. We're treating them mentally, socially, physically, spiritually - in all aspects to help them have better well-being all around."

Photo: - Nicole Sgouroudis, a senior nursing major at Indiana State University, visits with a patient at Meadows Manor East in Terre Haute Sept. 26, 2014. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Indiana State University occupational therapy students Rebecca Kemen (left) and Krista Currier chat with a patient in the Union Hospital emergency room Oct. 2, 2014. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Contact: Paula Price, program coordinator, Lifespan Health Living Initiative, Indiana State University, 812-237-2496 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or