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Graduating nursing students completed a clinical rotation with a sense of pride and gratitude as they gave HIV/AIDS patients brand-new pillboxes that they had created with the university’s 3-D printer.

The students in Professor Aneesha Jean’s community and public health nursing course spent the spring semester working with clients at Broadway House for Continuing Care in Newark, which provides medical, nursing, educational, psychological, recreational and other services for people with HIV/AIDS.

The students polled the residents and learned that one of their biggest stressors is medication adherence. They found that many patients take 25 to 30 pills per day and that for some, there is a stigma to carrying conventional medication bottles.

To make life a little easier, the students decided to create a container that did not look like a medication organizer and that differed from commercially available pillboxes.

Working with Ellen Johnston, interim director of Jennings Library, they came up with a model for a cylinder box that was portable, small, neutral and safe, said senior Charlotte Goyea. They chose white because it symbolizes peace, explained senior Jonaryis Reyna.

The students built relationships over the semester and said that any fears or stigmas they might have had at the beginning of the semester disappeared as they got to know the residents. “It opened my eyes … that everyone is human and no one should be judged,” said Goyea. Besides needing medication and treatment, many of the patients want to talk someone “to bring out the positivity in their life,” said Reyna.

On their final visit to Broadway House there were plenty of tears from Caldwell students and residents—tears of joy and gratitude for developing meaningful relationships and for having an enriching learning experience.

The nursing students recounted the story of a woman resident they had befriended who had ended up in Broadway House after losing her apartment and belongings. Since the woman is getting a new apartment and owns next to nothing, the Caldwell students are putting together a drive to collect furniture and household items for her.

One of the many lessons for the nursing students was “patient empowerment … learning how to give patients the tools to help themselves,” said Jean. “It was a powerful experience for the students to be able to grow as nursing professionals.”

The other graduating seniors in the course were Valentina Centeno, Corrine Dudas, Mario Lardizabal, Erica Malacas, Shannon Scariff, Jessica Scarpelli and Jamie Tangredi. Dr. Janet Chance-Hetzler was the Caldwell clinical faculty member for Broadway House.

The experience was a reminder of what being a nurse means, said Tangredi. “You may not be able to cure a patient’s situation, but you can make his or her day better and contribute to helping them look to the future with hope.”
Johnston said this project was the first large partnership that they had done working with students on a class project. Johnston and Heather Cook, Learning Commons librarian, enjoy working with students and faculty on projects. “3D printing is a transformative technology, especially for the medical field. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Nursing Department and other departments in the university,” said Johnston.

Don O’Hagan, chief information officer for university, said that when they began reviewing 3D print options for campus, the one feature that intrigued him was how the machines were able to use additive technology to build objects from the ground up. “This is a great advantage of the technology, especially when you encourage creativeness at the level we do here at Caldwell University. This technology fuels limitless creativity where students get to see, hold, and test their ideas in real space.”