Can a simple course assignment improve your patient's mental health? This spring, several Saint Joseph's College nursing students found out the answer to that question when they chose a service learning project that addressed social isolation and depression among senior citizens over the long winter.
The students in Mental Health Nursing used good old-fashioned activities like cookie decorating, bingo, chair exercises, and, in the case of one enthused poker player, a weekly game of Texas Hold'em to engage residents in several area assisted-living homes.
"They were anticipating our visit each week, and, at the end of five weeks, they were very saddened to see us go," says Nicole Lehoux '08 of Biddeford, Maine, about her visits to the Applewood Assisted Living community. Residents said the students had made winter more bearable.
Lehoux, along with classmates Lisa Earnhardt and Patrica Berry, took first prize in a writing competition when they submitted what they learned through their nursing experiences at Applewood. The competition, hosted by the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society for Nursing, included a $100 cash prize, as well as a certificate of recognition from the society.
Perhaps most importantly, the students learned what a difference five little visits can make in the lives of older people who don't get out much. "It feels great to see them smile, knowing that you made a difference in their life, one hour at a time," says Lehoux.
by Jeff Ferguson '08
Welcome to Father Paul Dumais, who began his appointment as the new chaplain in June. Dumais was ordained in May 2004, and since July of that year has served at a cluster of parishes in the Waterville area.
Rebecca Hilton, director of Campus Ministry at Saint Joseph's, says many students already know Father Dumais from his work with Youth Ministry. "He's so good with young people. We're very excited to have him," she notes.
After growing up in Madawaska, Maine, and attending high school there, Dumais, 35, graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology in 1997. He then earned a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Boston College in 2002, and later a Master of Divinity and a Master in Theology from Saint John's Seminary. Prior to attending the seminary, Dumais worked on a farm for three years in Kansas and taught at St. Joseph's Regional Junior High School in New Hampshire for a year.
"College students are making life decisions, and it makes sense for a priest to be with them and for them at those important junctions," Dumais says.
During his time in Waterville, he organized a softball team for the young people in his parish and sponsored a "theology on tap" speaker series for young adults. (By the way, he didn't just organize the softball team, he played on it.) Along with sports, he enjoys gardening and has been spotted taking a walk to admire the tomatoes ripening in the college garden.
Father Dumais has a warm, friendly style and will live on campus, allowing him to interact informally with students and be an integral part of the community. "I'll make this my home," he says.