Nursing student serves those in nursing home by making connections with them

Opportunities to spread the love of Christ are everywhere, but finding them can be difficult, especially in the bubble of a Christian campus. Junior nursing student Josie Camiola found a way to represent the love of Christ as a part of her career experience by supporting the UR LUved program. Seniors in nursing homes can experience the love of Christ through care packages containing handwritten notes, coloring books and a reflective book to support feelings of isolation.

It all started in January of this year, when Camiola went to one of her professors and asked her why there’s so much mistreatment in nursing homes after seeing her great aunt’s experience in a nursing home. As a nursing student, many patients she saw during her clinical experience expressed a reluctance to go back to their nursing home. 

“It was so sad to me that they would rather be in the hospital than go home to a nursing home,” Camiola said. 

Encouraged by her professor to research the problem, Camiola found that loneliness was the main point in her research. Through her research, Camiola found that loneliness in nursing homes actually increases mortality, making it both an issue of emotional and physical health.

But for Camiola, just doing research wasn’t enough.

 “I didn’t like leaving the situation without feeling like I made an impact on it, whether it was big or small. I like to have the mentality of what-can-I-do with the skills and gifts that God has given me to glorify him,” Camiola said.  

That’s where the URLUved boxes came in. The idea of making a connection with the elderly through a gift box.

In the age of text messages, email, Facetime and cell phones, connecting with others is more convenient and instantaneous than ever, and yet, there’s something different about receiving mail. Someone has taken the time to write out the address, pay for the postage and handwrite a letter or note. 

“I thought about all the times that someone had sent me a care package, just the feeling like you’re loved, you’re cared for (and) someone thought about you,” Camiola said. 

So Camiola shared the idea of creating these care packages to her professors, initially not realizing the reach it could have.  

With the help of nursing professors Dr. Dana Woody and Dr. Cindy Goodrich, the project won one of Liberty’s extremely competitive CTE ilLUminate grants, making it possible for the program to go forward. The first 100 care packages were assembled, and shipped to people in nursing homes Sept. 4. The packages contained coloring books, gospel tracts, and handwritten notes. 

Camiola said that senior year nursing students will now “adopt” a senior living in the Runk and Pratt Liberty Ridge Assisted Living facility, and they will be spending time with them opening their box and “loving on them.”

From a sincere concern brought to a professor, to a research project, then to a charitable initiative, the isolation boxes that started as part of the URLUved initiative created by Woody in summer 2022 is now supporting personal connections between students and elderly clients. Woody hopes to continue URLUved projects as part of the School of Nursing curriculum in years to come. 

“It’s all about how can we share the gospel before it’s too late,” Camiola said. Camiola encourages others to find ways to spread the love of Christ.

“My biggest encouragement to everyone is to have a what-can-I-do mentality to look at big or small issues and say, what can I do with (the) skills and gifts that God has given me … to make an impact for his Kingdom,” Camiola said. 

Perez is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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