PA students lift spirits for nursing home residents

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public relations | May 21, 2020

Image with caption: PA student Josephine Ngo paints a window at St. Joseph's Villa nursing and rehab center in Omaha.

PA student Josephine Ngo paints a window at St. Joseph's Villa nursing and rehab center in Omaha.

Physician assistant students lifted spirits and brightened the outlook for residents last week at the St. Joseph's Villa nursing and rehab center in Omaha.

They painted window murals on residents' exterior windows. The event is an ongoing effort to reach out and serve the community during these times of isolation, particularly individuals living in nursing homes.

As part of an infectious diseases course at UNMC, students are encouraged to serve their community. The students, who have no formal art training but have a passion for painting and serving, painted murals on outside windows in the gathering areas of the facility.

Leading the event was Mikenzie Nordeen, PA student in the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions.

"Because these patients are some of the most vulnerable during this pandemic, they've really been hit hard by the restrictions put in place. They aren't allowed to have visitors, they aren't allowed to go outside, and have to abide by strict social distancing regulations even within the facility," Nordeen said.

"It's easy to imagine what kind of effect that would have on their mental health, so even something as simple as painting windows can make a huge difference. It's a great opportunity for us as well to get outside and do something fun. The facility staff told us our paintings are beautiful and have brought joy to everyone inside, both the health care personnel and the patients," she said.

PA Daina Keehn said she and her colleagues had good reactions from the residents -- lots of thumbs up through the glass.

"This has been so much fun, one of the neatest things I have done in the last two months," Keehn said. "I haven't done any painting since high school art classes and I could not think of a better reason to finally pull out my old brushes. I feel so much joy every time I look at one of our finished windows and I hope the residents and staff feel the same way."

Josephine Ngo found it especially rewarding since students couldn't participate in clinical rotations during the pandemic.

"It's important to realize that even seemingly small acts like painting murals at nursing homes can really make a difference," Ngo said. "Although we were unable to speak to the nursing home residents, their smiles through the painted windows confirmed our small act of spreading joy and positivity during this difficult time."

Volunteers are needed to participate for future painting projects. If interested, contact Nordeen.

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