Meet me in the Neighborhood: Social Work IPTV students engage older adults in the heart of Detroit

IPTV volunteers
IPTV volunteers from left: Clifford Lyons, Occupational Therapy Program; Dr. Esther Coleman, older adult volunteer; Daha Roumayah, University of Detroit-Mercy School of Dentistry; Lauryn Leflore, Senior, BSW Program 

According to the US Census Bureau, there are nearly 90,000 older adults residing in Detroit and the numbers continue to grow. Working with older adults presents a variety of opportunities and challenges in our urban environment including a strong Detroit identity, housing insecurity, social isolation and healthcare availability. The Wayne State University (WSU) School of Social Work (SSW) has committed resources to train the next generation of social workers to support older adults in a manner that maximizes their quality of life and encourages active participation in their community. As participants in the Interprofessional Home Visit Program (IPTV), our social work warriors are doing just that.

For the past ten years, students from the SSW have participated in IPTV, which introduces Wayne State’s social work, medical, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, and physician assistant students, and University of Detroit Mercy’s dental students to team care for older adults. Students learn how to assess an older adult’s health and social needs and to participate in an interdisciplinary team environment. Originally developed in 2010 by Jennifer Mendez, PhD, associate professor and director of Co-Curricular Programs for the WSU School of Medicine, IPTV utilizes a holistic patient care method that utilizes the unique skills brought by each participating allied healthcare professional on the team.

The Interprofessional Team Visit Program helps social students gain valuable experience and knowledge in two areas that are essential for all social workers – knowledge about the strengths and needs of older adults and practice in adding the social work perspective in interprofessional practice.  - Joy Ernst, SSW IPTV faculty liaison

In conjunction with the Social Work Practice Methods II course, students in the bachelors of social work program (BSW) participate in IPTV during their winter semester. After an orientation, teams of three students from two or three different disciplines conduct a home visit of an older adult. During this 60 minute home visit, students ask questions about daily activities, nutrition, medications, family health and/or social supports. Social work students learn how to use the eco-map as an assessment tool. 

The older adult participants are volunteers recruited by Wayne State. They not only teach students about their own aging but what it means to be a health care practitioner who is caring and willing to do home visits for those who may be homebound. The older adults report they also see a benefit for themselves. 

The IPTV program is a unique experience, that allowed me to see how much social work has in common with other professions. It also reinforced the importance of teamwork and using a holistic approach with clients. - BSW IPTV student Lauryn Leflore

The integration of interprofessional student teaching is at the heart of the School’s mission to develop thoughtful practitioners who embrace the role of community. As frontline advocates partnering with fellow allied health professionals, social workers are able to improve patient outcomes and empower social change in our Detroit community.

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