Walk in My Shoes

Posted on March 1, 2019

Two funds at the Community Foundation are supplying geriatric simulators to Lorenzo Walker nursing school students so they can experience the effects of age-related physical changes.

Diminishing eyesight, stiffness, tingling in the fingers and feet—the students in nursing programs at both Lorenzo Walker Technical High School and Lorenzo Walker Technical College will soon discover in real time how the effects of aging impact daily tasks for their future patients.

$35,000 was granted to purchase five geriatric simulators and a pediatric simulator which students have come to affectionately call “Pedi.”  through a designated fund and a donor advised fund at the Community Foundation of Collier County for nursing programs at the schools. The simulators are wearable suits that enable students to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges, creating empathy and better insight when assisting seniors. Pedi, the 5-year-old boy simulator, joins the nursing school family which includes adult, birthing and newborn infant simulators.

Lorenzo Walker instructor Pam Wilkin said “There is an array of physical challenges a senior patient may have—and some may not be obvious to a caregiver. Peripheral neuropathy causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet, and makes tasks such as buttoning a shirt or counting change difficult. There several different types of vision conditions—including cataracts, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa—that have separate but distinct effects, making it hard to differentiate pills or reducing central or side (peripheral) vision. There may be everyday impacts due to breathing difficulties from heart disease, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as hearing loss.”

Last year, Wilkin “MacGyvered” her own simulators with goggles and “a bunch of stuff put together from a dollar store.” The students “had such a new understanding of what older people have to go through in activities of daily living. They were blown away,” Wilkin said. “Things we take for granted, they struggle with.”

She is thrilled to that the medical faculty will have professional RealCare Geriatric Simulators, which include six visual-impairment glasses, a sensitivity suit, ankle and wrist weights, knee and elbow restraints, a walker and a cervical collar, thanks to these grants.

One of them was purchased through the Mary Beth and Charles A. Johns Fund. Mary Beth Johns is also on the Community Foundation Board of Trustees and is a registered nurse who owns Aging and Family Solutions in Naples so “this is right up my alley,” Johns said. “The actual hands-on with the simulators are a lot better than practicing hands-on in the field. It’s much more comfortable in a classroom setting and will alert the students as to what to expect. None of us had that when we were going to school.”

Read more about these grants in the Naples Daily News