OASIS (Older Adult Specialty Interest Scholars) program December 2023 Graduates

Nov. 9, 2023

The Strengthening Eldercare Workforce through Rural and Underserved Nursing (SEW-RUN) grant was funded in 2021 by the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) with the purpose of educating entry level nursing students from diverse backgrounds in care of diverse populations of older adults with complex needs living in rural and under-resourced areas. Project Director, Cheryl Lacasse, PhD, RN says that “the OASIS program provided an opportunity for students to immerse in the specialty of gerontological nursing, receive additional support to facilitate overall student success, and develop confidence as a professional nurse.”

The University of Arizona College of Nursing’s OASIS (Older Adult Specialty Interest Scholars) program has enhanced the knowledge and competencies of full-time, Bachelor of Science in nursing students from diverse backgrounds focused on older adult care from diverse populations. These scholars represent diverse populations including Hispanic/Latino, Native American, first-generation college attendees or from rural areas and receive financial support and academic enrichment and support through mentoring and coaching, professional and leadership skills development, and peer networking. In addition, the program also engaged faculty champions from each semester in the BSN-Tucson program to strategically incorporate and highlight key principles of older adult care throughout all 4 semesters of the program. The framework for this curriculum infusion was the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 4M Model which includes 1) What matters most? 2) Mobility, 3) Mentation, and 4) Medications. 

Students completed two summer intensive experiences beginning after completion of their first semester in nursing school.  The curriculum of summer intensive one included academic and skills-based learning including: discussion of the 4Ms, common chronic conditions and medications in older adults, frailty, interprofessional team approach to older adult, topics in aging such as (ageism, advocacy, aging family, caregiving, end-of-life decisions), and comprehensive geriatric assessment. One favorite weekly seminar led by Mary O’Connell, MA, RN, principal lecturer, was entitled “Aging Gracefully”. During this seminar, students learned about aging from a diverse group of older adults. Students were encouraged to engage in dialogue and learned about aging through the wisdom and experiences of older adults. It also included community-based experiential learning at Pascua Yaqui Health Department, Mariposa Community Health Center, Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales, and Banner University Medical Center South focused on diverse, older adult populations.

After the summer intensive, students completed their BSN curriculum while attending monthly educational mentoring meetings. Students also attended the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence Leadership Conference and learned about national and international challenges in older adult care and health care policies.

During the second summer intensive, the OASIS program partnered with the ANIE program to share program resources and enhance the OASIS students’ mentoring and leadership opportunities.  OASIS students engaged in two days a week engaging in nursing care of older adults with complex care needs in clinical simulation and community-based nursing experiences including older adults with complex needs at Clinica Amistad and Casa Alitas. Students also participated in a “learning on the road” experience by attending the Rural Health Conference in Flagstaff which included content on health of older adults in rural Arizona.

Linda Perez, M Admin, RN, principal lecturer and primary faculty for the OASIS Summer Intensive, explains that the program prepares students for working with older adults in many different environments. It also helps the students build upon the skills they have learned and learn new skills that help them prepare for their upcoming classes. Working closely with their cohort builds a sense of bonding and belonging. “They get to learn from each other and establish connections through peer mentoring,” she says.

Perez is proud to be part of working with the OASIS students. She loves seeing their personal and professional development during the Summer Intensive. “They grow so much in such a short time, and they become true advocates in caring for older adults. They have become leaders as well as model students. I only wish all students were able to get the information they received and practiced as our older adult community will be well cared for by students like the OASIS students. 

The following OASIS students demonstrated competency in comprehensive older adult care and will be graduating with their BSN in December 2023: Melina Barrigan, Samantha Kennepohl, Alanna Leung, Hope McCain, Carolina Medina, Bella Rodriguez, Mark Sauceda, and Wyatt Ute.

The OASIS grant team is very proud of the students’ accomplishments and their commitment to immersing in learning about supporting healthy aging.  The grant team includes: Cheryl Lacasse, PhD, RN (Project Director), Linda Phillips, PhD, RN, faculty eldercare champions (Linda Perez, MAdmin., RN, Mary O’Connell, MA, RN, Laurel Bilbo, MSN, RN, Stephanie, Donovan, MSN, RN), specialty mentors (Lori Martin Plank, PhD, RN, Heather Carlisle, PhD, DNP, RN, and Kim Shea, PhD, RN), and interprofessional consultants (Mindy Fain, MD, Jeannie Lee, PhD, and Zhao Chen, PhD).