Beyond Clinic Walls (BCW) aims to serve community members who have complex medical and/or social needs. BCW helps their clients to understand their often complicated health needs and to maintain contact with their health care providers. Student volunteers from the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Public Health, Social Work, and Speech-Language Pathology collaborate in interdisciplinary teams that partner with clients for a year.
Student teams visit on a monthly basis, and assess their client's health status, living conditions, and concerns. Student teams meet each semester with allied health faculty and community volunteers to discuss their experience. Additionally, student teams can share their observations with their client's health care providers. In addition to monthly visits, student teams organize special projects that will benefit their client's standard of living. These projects are financed by donations and assisted by community volunteers with relevant expertise. Past projects include renovating a deck to improve accessibility, handling water quality issues, and installing grab bars to prevent injury.
BCW provides volunteers with an extraordinary opportunity to help community members who may otherwise lack adequate access to healthcare and other local services. Our volunteers learn much more than the practical application of classroom knowledge. Outside the clinic, our volunteers develop a holistic view of their client and their unique circumstances. Students leave with an increased awareness and preparedness for the challenges they will face in their professional careers. In addition, students learn the invaluable lessons that come with working on an interdisciplinary healthcare team and the tremendous benefit of pooled knowledge from diverse academic perspectives.
Who? Currently, BCW offers services to children and geriatric clients of need in the community. Our teams serve children who live with chronic illness and are between the ages of 3 and 12 years as well as elderly citizens who are a part of Charles House or the Carol Woods Retirement Community. Student volunteers are working toward their degree in a range of fields: Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Public Health, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Speech-Language Pathology, and Education. Our students collaborate in interdisciplinary teams that partner with clients for one year to make monthly home visits to support them in whatever way possible. Some volunteers are just beginning their training, while other students are close to finishing their programs. This provides a nice layered learning model to help students expand their patient skills.
What? BCW has two purposes: to serve community members who have complex health or life situations, and to give UNC students an opportunity to learn about the joys and challenges of working with clientele who have complex needs. From October through April, a small group of students visits their client monthly. During these meetings, teams assess their client's needs and address concerns related to their healthcare, comfort, and safety. In the course of the program, students may suggest community resources or other connections that support the client's/family’s interests and well-being. Students will also use the family's input to work on a special project that improves some aspect of the client's life.
Why? BCW embraces a philosophy of partnership. We believe that our students can bring wisdom from their classes to the community, and that our volunteer families are very much the experts when it comes to their client's experiences, needs, and challenges. We expect that families will benefit from the resources and assistance a student team can provide; we also believe that students can learn a lot from their clients' experiences. This year we are excited to announce a new partnership between Carol Woods Retirement Community, the Chapel Hill Department on Aging, and Beyond Clinic Walls. We are thrilled to have their support on our endeavors and are looking forward to working with them!
When? Teams of 4-6 students meet with families, together or in pairs, at least once a month from October to April. Meetings are scheduled to best fit the family's availability; usually, these meetings run between one and two hours. Often times teams and clients enjoy their company so much that students choose to visit more frequently.
Where? Too often, healthcare providers only see their clients in a medical office. We seek to go outside the clinic in order to help clients with their daily health challenges in a real world environment. For this reason, we recommend that student teams visit their client in their home. Student teams may plan games with children specifically focused on their needs, share a meal at the retirement community with their client, or plan an outing with their client's family. Please note, however, that our students are not allowed to provide transportation for clients.
By getting to know families and clients that live with chronic illness, our students are able to develop a broader view of how health and well-being are intertwined. Students leave BCW with an increased awareness and preparedness for the challenges they will face in their professional careers. In addition, students learn the invaluable lessons that come with working on an interdisciplinary healthcare team. We hope that working with a close-knit team will be a rewarding experience for our students, clients, and their families.
For more information about the BCW program, please contact BCW.SHAC@gmail.com.