Two programs in the College of Health Science and Public Health have built a community partnership with Excelsior Youth Center to help EWU students learn while helping the organization in return.
CHSPH’s undergraduate health services administration (HSA) program and graduate occupational therapy (OT) program have formed a partnership with Excelsior, a school and specialty medical clinic that serves a diverse group of young individuals, many of whom may have experienced a form of trauma in their early life.
“Excelsior is a really innovative health care provider. I think we’re moving into an age where we’re increasing integration of service into traditional mode of care – mental health, addiction studies and environment for example,” said Anna Tresidder, PhD and assistant professor of HSA. “They’re taking into consideration the broad definition of health and I think it’s great exposure for our students.”
HSA students conducted eight research projects last spring focusing on different aspects of Excelsior, including data collection on staff retention rates, community-based surveys and analyzing incident reports. Students in one group that conducted a billing analysis found roughly $67,000 in unbilled services over the course of two years.
“We were able to help [Excelsior] with some of those administrative gaps and knowledge gaps to assist their organization because they have so many different things they do,” Tresidder said. “They’re in the trenches – working day to day, providing services to kids, working with law enforcement. It’s hard for their staff to take a moment, step back, and look at data collected to identify trends.”
Due to the success of their projects, two students presented their Excelsior research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the first time students from the HSA program attended the conference.
“The students face real challenges head on, especially with a service provider that’s as complex as Excelsior. They get a really good feel for the complexity of health care delivery – it’s not just, you deliver a service, you get paid for it, you move on,” Tresidder said. “They learn about the different components that provide the supports and barriers in a very complex administration system.”
Simultaneously, six students in EWU’s OT program conducted research for their capstone requirement and fulfilled their fieldwork experience at Excelsior last spring. EWU students collaborated with teachers to create plans for students, gathered information to create sensory rooms and learned about organizational barriers.
“We can’t give those experiences to them in the classroom,” said Donna Mann, OTD, associate dean of CHSPH and associate professor of OT. “You have to be out in the world to have those experiences.”
OT students have successfully identified ways in which Excelsior can make changes to better benefit its students.
“We’re able to improve student learning experiences. A flip side of that is Excelsior is having a positive experience because they’re already realizing the benefits of having an occupational therapist in their school identify ways for them to make changes and take different approaches in other environments,” Mann said.
The partnership between Excelsior and CHSPH was sparked by Dean Laureen O’Hanlon, PhD, in an attempt to identify how the college can become more involved in the community while creating student opportunities for learning. The success of the partnership has led to Tresidder, Mann and Ryan Kiely, vice president and program operations at Excelsior, conducting a two-hour workshop and presentation at the National American Occupational Therapy Conference in Philadelphia.
“We’re sharing this on the national stage. It is an innovative learning experience,” Tresidder said. “There’s potential for this to evolve into something meaningful for students in the long run. Ryan, Donna and I are really invested. We’re always figuring out how to make things work.”
Both Mann and Tresidder attribute the success of the partnership to consistent teamwork and dedication between CHSPH and Excelsior.
“To really dedicate resources and continuously find ways to work together creates an investment that both organizations value,” Tresidder said. “The outcomes are good – the students benefit and the organizations benefit. We stay aware of making sure that the benefits are felt on both sides.”