From hospitals to homes, nurses are always at the forefront of patient care applying their expertise to help their patients where they’re at. Nowhere is this concept embodied more clearly than through the Indiana University Northwest School of Nursing’s partnership with Meals on Wheels (MOW) of Northwest Indiana.
Through the MOW partnership, seniors and other homebound individuals and families across Northwest Indiana are provided healthy, balanced meals straight to their doors.
“Over the past few years, we have worked very hard to build in a spirit of volunteerism through programs like Meals on Wheels into our nursing students’ standard clinical rotations,” Crystal Shannon, director of the School of Nursing, and interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said.
Shannon said that exposing nursing students to Meals on Wheels programming allows them to step outside the hospital and see the overarching impact of healthcare. “It’s one thing for us (healthcare providers) to recommend a specific diet to someone in a healthcare environment,” she said. “It's another thing to manage it on your own, especially when you may not have the resources.”
As part of the rotation, students work closely with meal planners and get to use their existing healthcare knowledge to help meal recipients. Shannon said students often talk with MOW clients on how a certain diet could affect medication or influence weight.
Senior-level nursing student Madison Stefans has already experienced how MOW helps the community. Tasked with meal delivery, food preparation, and office assistance, she saw how much more there is to healthcare outside the doctor’s office.
“Before this semester, every single one of my clinical experiences were at hospitals or acute care facilities,” she said. “MOW allowed me to see the other side of healthcare, where the individual turned from patient to client.”
Stefans said she’ll take the concepts she learned at MOW into her future career. She emphasized that Meals on Wheels is about more than just food—it’s also a wellness check. “It serves to combat social isolation. The idea of holistic care, looking at the entire patient, is something that I will take with me to my future career in nursing.”
Stefans and Shannon are both excited to be a part of an organization that plays such an important role in the community. And for Shannon’s part, she sees plenty of opportunities to expand IU Northwest’s partnership with MOW.
“I can envision other areas of IU Northwest’s College of Health and Human Services doing something similar,” she said. “A partnership with our dental education students could be an opportunity; I also see a possible connection with our School of Social Work.”
In the end, it’s all about expanding access both to healthcare education and quality nutrition for the community. Shannon’s students, Stefans included, have already come to her with amazing success stories and “aha!” moments.
Students who finish the Meals on Wheels rotation have a fresh perspective on healthcare and the varied ways nursing is embedded into everyday life.
“Nursing care and support is not just limited to one particular space,” Shannon said. “It’s not just at the hospital or clinic—it’s everywhere.”
IU Northwest’s and MOW’s joint commitment to educating new nurses is just another step toward advancing healthcare access to every corner of the community.