WASHINGTON, PA (March 7, 2016) — Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) is the recipient of a $5,000 G.C. Murphy Company Foundation grant, which will support W&J’s Community Health Coach Program, as well as the students participating in the program.
The Health Coach Program began in spring 2014 and is a collaboration between W&J and the Community Care Network of Jefferson Regional Medical Center. The program focuses on reducing preventable admissions and readmissions of chronically ill patients to hospitals in the southwestern Pennsylvania region through weekly in-home visits by W&J student volunteers.
In the first formal semester of the program – fall of 2014 – W&J students worked with more than 20 patients and Jefferson Regional Medical Center reported an 88% reduction in readmission rates for patients that were part of the Community Care Network. The following semester, that percentage was raised to 90.6%. An objective for this year is to increase that rate to 92%.
Student participants in this program attend three weeks of training at Jefferson Hospital where they are taught by, and allowed to shadow with, practicing healthcare professionals. Following training, students are assigned patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital and conduct weekly visits to the home of their patient. The student volunteers observe their patient’s health and home life and report progress and other information back to the hospital.
As students establish good relationships with their patients, they are better able to understand the needs of their patients and assist them in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, the clearances students need to obtain in order to participate in the program and the associated travel expenses can be costly.
“The grant will assist in decreasing the cost for student volunteers, including helping to ease the costs for their screenings and travel. The grant will also be used to support the program administratively,” said Justin Dandoy, director of the Office of Community Engagement at W&J.
Prior to receiving the G.C. Murphy Company Foundation grant, the program was funded by the students with small expenses covered by the Office of Community Engagement. The G.C. Murphy Company Foundation’s grant will help cover expenses incurred from the student volunteers and in turn benefit the program. Without the concern of funding, the student volunteers are better able to focus on their patients.
Currently, 24 economically-disadvantaged senior citizen patients are being served by six intern health coaches and additional volunteer health coaches. Dandoy said those involved with the program are hoping that with their current applicant pool of 40 possible intern health coaches for the fall 2016 semester – the largest applicant pool so far – that the program will be able to meet the ever-growing patient need.
“The grant has been an enormous help for the College, but especially for the students, and in turn their patients. The students were getting hit with costs for medical screenings, transportation, parking and food during training, and more,” said Dandoy. “It was turning potential student health coaches away from participating in the program because, although they had the desire to participate, they weren’t able to meet the expense. With fewer coaches, there were fewer patients that could be served. The more coaches, the more successful the program itself.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.