Health Care Meets Holistic Care
For more than a decade, the Chester Community Clinic has offered physical therapy services to members of the community at little to no cost. Now in a new facility on campus, the student-run pro bono clinic is caring for the community through expanded health and wellness services.
With the addition of occupational therapy, social work, and clinical psychology, the clinic is making a big impact on its clients. Just ask Bridgette Staples. The Brookhaven resident came to the clinic last August after suffering a stroke.
“You know how they say ‘don’t chew bubble gum and walk at the same time’? Well I couldn’t chew gum or walk,” said Staples. “But they’ve taught me to walk and do things at the same time.”
The damage caused by the sudden medical emergency put Staples on a long path to recovery, one that requires extensive rehabilitation from different specialties to restore both physical and cognitive functions.
Staples is in the clinic twice a week for coordinated physical and occupational therapy sessions as well as consultations with social work and clinical psychology student to address her multifaceted rehabilitation needs. And so far, it’s working.
Everything they’ve taught me is helping me move better. I have so much more strength in my legs and in my arms.
Located in the former Chester School District administration building on Melrose Avenue, the clinic offers a state-of-the-art facility that is designed to enroll more clients
and treat more complex diagnoses.
Offering various services under one roof not only benefits clients, it also creates a hands-on, interprofessional learning environment for graduate students. For Haily Vaka, a second year graduate physical therapy student, the clinic was her first introduction to a multi-discipline environment.
“Before starting in the clinic I really had no idea about the interprofessional approach,” said Vaka, who is Staples’ primary care coordinator.
During Staples’ treatment plan, Vaka partners with occupational therapy graduate students, like Floriza Mangulabnan, to coordinate care and patient goals, a practice often seen in professional health care settings.
When we go out into the real world we’re going to be talking to physicians and other physical therapists and occupational therapists whose goal is to send the patient home and have them be independent in life.
–Floriza Mangulabnan '22, occupational therapy
Allyson Killen, a graduate student in the clinical psychology program, says being in an integrated clinic environment helps her understand care from different perspectives.
“I’m able to get an outside picture that other disciplines might have,” Killen explained. “I get to see things from their lens that I might not have thought of.”
The ability to apply classroom lessons in the clinic, in an interdisciplinary manner, also gives students an advantage in the field.
To have that opportunity to see interprofessional collaboration before I go out to clinical rotations gives me a whole different mindset.
–Haily Vaka '21, physical therapy
The clinic expansion reflects the growing emphasis on health and human service education and interdisciplinary learning at Widener. This approach prepares students in health-related disciplines for the connected and diverse health care field.
Tamar Back, a graduate student earning a dual degree in human sexuality and social work, says the clinic enables student interns to address all client needs, not just physical.
"Clients don’t have just physical issues, they might have other barriers getting to their appointment such as transportation or they need help figuring out insurance or child care, so we’re seeing them holistically as a whole person," Back said.
Working alongside other disciplines is an invaluable learning experience that ultimately improves the clients’ well-being because Back and her classmates have a shared goal of “making sure that the client gets the best care they can possibly get.”
As for Staples, she says that shared goal has done far more than teach her to walk and chew gum at the same.
“[The students] helped me heal,” Staples said. “Mentally, physically and emotionally. They helped me heal.”