Harris Students Put Their Skills to Work in the Community

Cherry Hill and Dover students are using their training to serve area residents

Hector Concepcion Jr. provides a chair massage to a resident of the Brookdale Evesham Senior Living Community in Voorhees Township, NJ
Massage Therapy instructor Kirsten Hildebrandt brought four of her students from the Cherry Hill campus to the Brookdale Evesham Senior Living Community in Voorhees Township, NJ. The students—which included Hector Concepcion Jr., (shown in the photo) Crystal Daly, Amanda Page, and Dolores Watson—offered chair massages to all interested residents.

One beneficial aspect of the career training programs at the Harris School of Business is that they provide students with skills that are useful to members of the local community. Recently students in the Massage Therapy program at the Cherry Hill campus and in the Medical Assisting program at the Dover campus took the opportunity to use what they’re learning to go out and help those who live and work nearby. This is a win-win situation, in that the students get to put their skills into practice, and the community members gain valuable services from the eager and well-trained Harris students. We recently spoke with instructors and students on both campuses about their experiences.

Providing chair massages for seniors

On January 25, Massage Therapy instructor Kirsten Hildebrandt brought four of her students from the Cherry Hill campus to the Brookdale Evesham Senior Living Community in Voorhees Township, NJ. The students—which included Hector Concepcion Jr., Crystal Daly, Amanda Page, and Dolores Watson—offered chair massages to all interested residents at the center, who were highly appreciative for the experience.

Hildebrandt first began visiting this facility on her own in the summer of 2016, providing massages on a volunteer basis, and they immediately asked her to come back. Soon after, when she started teaching at Harris, she brought students with her, so they could gain experience with a senior population. “Now I bring students every time I teach,” she says, which is about every ten weeks.

Having started out at Harris as a clinical instructor, she now handles the academic portion of the curriculum, which she says is when students need to put all the skills together. Seated massage is one subject she covers, which students usually learn about midway through the program. “It’s a good opportunity for students who are far enough along to be aware of how to adapt their practice to suit specific client needs,” she says.

“It’s a beneficial experience for both sides,” Hildebrandt adds. “The residents love it, and the students get to practice their massage techniques on a different group than their classmates and staff members at the school.” She notes that it takes a fair amount of time giving massages for the students to become confident.

Hildebrandt works hand in hand with the director at Brookdale Evesham, Kathy Malony, to organize the events so they can provide massages to all residents who have been cleared medically to receive them. Hildebrandt is on hand at all times, to help clients to get situated comfortably and adjust the chair if needed. She adds that they do not use the traditional massage chairs with this group. “Those can be tricky for individuals with knee issues to get in and out of,” she says, so instead the students use portable support equipment.

The students were busy at the facility for two hours, and Hildebrandt estimates that each student provided massages for about six clients. If the resident agreed, she took photographs of the students as they’re working, which the students sometimes use to promote themselves once they’re licensed to practice.

“I know that the residents enjoy our time there, because when we’re packing up to leave, they always ask, ‘When are you coming back?’” She is pleased to be able to say to expect them in about another ten weeks, when she’ll have another group of eager students.

“I’ve noticed that, during each visit, there is at least one resident who leaves a lasting impression on the students,” Hidebrandt says. “And at the end of the day, I’ve noticed the students feel great about having made the choice to pursue a profession where they’re able to help people and bring some relief and relaxation to those who need and appreciate it.”

Offering blood pressure and blood glucose readings

At the Dover campus, Medical Assisting students have been going onsite to a local nutrition center to offer free blood pressure and blood glucose readings to customers. Deb Campbell, an instructor in the program, recently took six of the students in her Medical Office Procedures (MOP) class on this outing, as she has a handful of times in the past. The group traveled a couple of miles down the road to Exquisite Nutrition, a “nutrition club” in Dover—a meeting place for individuals seeking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

The school had prepared flyers in advance so that the customers knew about the free services they could expect at the location. During the three-hour visit, students asked each customer who came in whether they’d be interested in learning their height and weight, or having their blood pressure taken and blood glucose reading done. Most customers agreed, which resulted in practice with dozens of people over the course of the day.

Campbell says the students benefit from the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism by interacting with clients. “It’s a nice experience for them,” she says, “because it gives them a chance to do procedures in a business setting, which is more like what they’ll see in the workplace. They like it because they won’t be as nervous once they go out on their externship in a few weeks.”

The students took blood pressures by hand, using a stethoscope and cuff, and brought with them all of the equipment needed to do the blood glucose readings, including monitors, test strips, and alcohol prep pads. Campbell says that many of the customers were interested in blood glucose readings, including some who were diabetic. “Given that people don’t always go to the doctor or monitor themselves as often as they should,” she says, “the students are providing a valuable service.”

The students taking part in this most recent outing included Ebony Burnette, Wideline Auguste, Nanette Griffin Edwards, Nathaniel McCullen, Alma Patterson, and Nikia Savage. “The people there that we worked with were nice,” said Ebony. “They were interested in what we where doing and in our school.”

“It was a great experience,” Nikia said. She was pleased to get positive feedback on her performance from a customer who was a registered nurse. “I liked working on people that were not students,” said Nathaniel. “The experience helped get me ready for working after I complete the program.” Campbell will return to Exquisite Nutrition when she has a new class of MOP students, on February 15.

The instructors on both campuses are proud of how the students conducted themselves, and took advantage of the opportunity to advance their learning by applying it in a new context. Stay tuned to the Harris School of Business blog for more about activities on our various campuses, as students prepare for their exciting new careers!