Winona State partners with Bridges Health

Kristin Kovalsky, News Reporter

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Winona State University received the Innovative Partnering and Collaboration award through their work with Bridges Health Winona.

Bridges Health is an interprofessional clinical education model that involves both students and faculty from nursing, public health, social work, exercise science and many other areas of study.

Bridges Health offers free preventive health services to underserved members of the community.

The planning for the program started in 2016 and was launched in 2017.

Jennifer Timm, assistant professor of nursing, said that the program was started because there was a need in the community.

“A group of interprofessional faculty from WSU partnered with community organizations to design a program that would fill a gap in needs for underserved groups – preventive health.  Students were involved and have since led the evolvement of the program,” Timm said.  “The local community needs-assessment was used to guide the development of the program.”

Winona State University collaborated with Bridges Health before the program was officially in place.

“WSU worked closely with community partners in the design and implementation phase, to ensure the program would create mutual goals and vision. The partnership is the central core to the Bridges initiative,” Timm said.

The program allows students to volunteer in the community and work towards fulfilling their clinical hours.

“The program is student-led, faculty-guided and partners with numerous community-based organizations to bring the service to the people,” Timm said. “Students are able to provide service to the community, while fulfilling clinical, practicum, or field placement hours.  Students work collaboratively across disciplines to deliver the program, in an interprofessional way.”

The Innovation Partnering and Collaboration award features a few different areas.

“The award highlights programs that are designed through partnership to improve student academic achievement, that creates mutual benefit for those involved, creates impact on students, partners, and enhancement of educational opportunities, fosters contributions to the partnership from all involved parties and demonstrates sustainability and scalability of the collaborative model,” Timm said.

Senior nursing major Spencer Pratt said that he, along with other students, volunteer with their sites outside of their clinical hours.

“It started as [clinical hours], as we were assigned to it,” Pratt said. “But then after being there for the first semester and the second, we all expanded our roles and we spend more of our free time there.”

Pratt said the partnership with Bridges Health is unlike other clinical hours experience.

“I think it taught us about the organizational leadership skills with nursing,” Pratt said. “Most of our other clinical hours are in the hospital, so we really learn technical skills and critical thinking [there], but this clinical is unique in the fact that you have to do outreach work.”

The program is unique and helps students prepare for their future careers.

“One thing that is unique about it is that it teaches us to understand populations and needs within the community and assess them through student work,” Pratt said.