Franciscan and university helping patients stay in homes

An $18,000 gift from the Franciscan Foundation will pay for equipment the University of Puget Sound uses in a hospital simulation laboratory to help seniors and others continue living in their own homes.

UPS officials said the donation will allow people seeking therapy at the college’s public health clinic to learn how to safely use assistive devices, such as bed lifts, and high-tech environmental controls that they may need for their care at home. The new equipment also will provide graduate students in the occupational and physical therapy programs with real-life experience in assisting such patients.

“One of the most important things to many of our public clients is that they are able to continue to live their lives fully and independently,” said Jennifer Hastings, director of physical therapy at Puget Sound.  “Thanks to the Franciscan Foundation, we will now be able to teach them and their caregivers how to use the equipment they need to ensure their safety and comfort.”

Every year, the university’s public clinics provide low-cost or free treatment for about 300 patients who have no healthcare benefits or insurance. Many are low-income or elderly patients who rely on a relative as their primary caregiver.

The hospital simulation laboratory in UPS’ Weyerhaeuser Hall will include feeding tubes, bed lifts, oxygen lines, catheter lines and intravenous poles. It also will have sophisticated specialty devices such as an electronic aid for daily living that is voice-activated and interfaces with the hospital bed, lights, thermostat, television and phone so that a patient with limited mobility can control the environment. Patient training will be administered by occupational therapy and physical therapy graduate students, under the supervision of healthcare professionals.

Yvonne Swinth, the university’s director of occupational therapy, said the simulation lab will give students valuable experience in working with patients who face mobility challenges due to chronic health problems or injury. The students will be better prepared for internships, fieldwork, the license exam, and jobs as therapists.

After completing their studies, about 85 percent of Puget Sound occupational therapy graduates and 50 percent of physical therapy graduates find jobs providing care in hospital rooms, many with Franciscan Health System, which operates hospitals and clinics in south King County and Pierce County.

In addition, the laboratory will serve as a community resource. For example local therapists may visit the facility with a client to try some of the equipment. Pacific Lutheran University nursing students who visit the clinic each semester for training in lifting and transferring of patients also will benefit. The patients themselves are able to try out the aids before buying them for their home, officials noted. 

Weyerhaeuser Hall, which opened in 2011, houses teaching, research, clinical work and public outreach for physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, exercise science and neuroscience.

“We are delighted to assist in the creation of this new facility so that members of our community, who have suffered injury or illness, can gain the peace of mind of remaining in their own homes,” said Greg Unruh, a 1976 graduate of UPS and president of Franciscan Foundation, which administers charitable gifts made on behalf of Franciscan Health System.

A public patient works with an occupational therapy professor and student in Weyerhaeuser Hall at University of Puget Sound. (Courtesy photo)
A public patient works with an occupational therapy professor and student in Weyerhaeuser Hall at University of Puget Sound. (Courtesy photo)