Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 69.30
Liaison Srinivasan Raghavan
Submission Date Feb. 16, 2018
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Missouri
IN-25: Innovation B

Status Score Responsible Party
1.00 / 1.00 Srinivasan Raghavan
Sustainability Manager
Sustainability Office
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Name or title of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome:
Social Work Students Improved Care Quality, Staff Morale in Independent Living Facility

A brief description of the innovative policy, practice, program, or outcome that outlines how credit criteria are met and any positive measurable outcomes associated with the innovation:

As a growing population of older adults begins transitioning to assisted living or home health care, more attention has focused on improving the adults’ quality of care while keeping costs low. New research from the University of Missouri suggests adding social workers and social work students, who are supervised by a field instructor, to the care team may be one solution.

“We found social work students gave new energy and life to residents at an independent living facility and took pressure off nursing staff by taking the lead in helping adults navigate challenging family dynamics or other issues,” said Colleen Galambos, professor and director of the graduate certificate in gerontological social work at MU. “Not only was patient care improved, but also staff morale and workload.”

The researchers interviewed employees, from a variety of disciplines and positions, at TigerPlace, an independent living facility in Columbia, Missouri, who had interacted with graduate social work students, residents and residents’ families. The researchers asked staff members how the students contributed to client services, staff workload and family and client communication.

Staff members said they viewed the social work students as resources and sought their advice on communication strategies as well as behavioral and mental health issues. Staff members also reported the social work students positively contributed to client care and clients’ quality of life by increasing communication among clients, families and staff.

Which of the following impact areas does the innovation most closely relate to? (select up to three):
Public Engagement
Wellbeing & Work

A letter of affirmation from an individual with relevant expertise or a press release or publication featuring the innovation :

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

This research project is a solid contribution to enhancing the quality of life of older adults and strengthening community, both of which lie within the spectrum of sustainability imperatives. It also suggests methods to reduce the burden on professional nursing staff while providing valuable service learning and internship opportunities for students from the MU School of Social Work. Within the US residents age 65 and over grew from 35.0 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively. Older adults engaged in collaborative relationships report increased cognitive awareness, increased self-esteem and life satisfaction, improved ability to complete activities of daily living, and an appreciation for the opportunity to share their life experiences with others (Dorfman et al., 2003; Peacock & O’Quin, 2006). Older adults who show such attributes are likely to stay healthier thus reducing the stress on Medicare and Medicaid.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for social workers with aging expertise to increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022 (Bureau of Labor Statistics & U.S. Department of Labor, 2014). The Council on Social Work Education responded by developing an initiative to “ensure that social workers, both bachelor’s (BSW) and master’s (MSW), are better prepared to improve the quality of life and enhance the well-being of older people” (Ericson & Tompkins, 2006, p. 226). Part of this educational initiative encouraged partnerships between universities and communities to help prepare social workers to meet the demands of the aging population boom.

The study referenced here involved 10 employees at TigerPlace and 2 service learning students from the MU School of Social Work.

This ongoing project at an independent living, aging in place facility in Columbia, MO called TigerPlace is a valuable contribution towards understanding the needs of serving an increasing older adult population. It is also a great example of the University of Missouri participation and service within the local community.

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