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Local College Students Improve Quality of Life of Seniors Through Internship Program

Local College Students Improve Quality of Life of Seniors Through Internship Program

Pictured, from left, are Douglas A. Struyk, CPA, LNHA, President and CEO of Christian Health; Olivia Montwald (Therapeutic Patient Activities); Matthew Becker (Therapeutic Patient Activities); Julianna DeStefano (Projects in Person- and Family-centered Care); and Sophie D’Souza (Rehabilitation Therapy). Amanda Brastad (Speech Pathology) is not pictured.

Christian Health (CHCC) in Wyckoff recently completed its annual undergraduate non-clinical summer internship program. Five students with cumulative grade point averages higher than 3.0 were accepted into the program, working within their fields of interest alongside a CHCC mentor in their respective departments. Interns were placed across a variety of areas within the organization, participating in hands-on activities as vital members of the team. Each intern completed a specific project to support his/her learning, and the seven-week program culminated in a final presentation of these projects to CHCC leaders.

Internships were offered in the following CHCC departments: Person- and Family-centered Care; Long-term Care Admissions; Food and Nutrition Services; Therapeutic Activities, including music therapy and art therapy; Rehabilitation Therapy (physical, occupational, and speech therapy); Marketing and the CHCC Foundation; and Assisted-living Administration. CHCC internships provide invaluable opportunities to be involved in meaningful work and projects, attend educational sessions, and participate in networking with other interns, clinicians, and senior leaders.

“CHCC’s undergraduate summer internship program, now in its seventh year, is committed to developing the next generation of professionals who want to make a difference in the lives of others,” says Douglas A. Struyk, CPA, LNHA, President and CEO of Christian Health. “The program is a wonderful opportunity for students to explore career interests while allowing them to work alongside mentors and senior leaders to positively impact the lives of our patients and residents.”

Olivia Montwald, a Franklin Lakes resident and High Point University psychology major, interned in the Heritage Manor Nursing Home Activities Department. She created themed boxes which allow residents with memory issues to explore various textures, sounds, smells, and sights, from fabrics in a sewing-themed box, to old photographs in a military-themed box. Matthew Becker of Wyckoff also interned with Heritage Manor Activities. A Vanderbilt University psychology major, Mr. Becker focused on wheelchair “sitercise” and a hallway navigation system. Both projects explored cognitive effects of exercise and the environment on residents. Colts Neck resident Julianna DeStefano interned in CHCC’s ongoing Person- and Family-centered Care approach and philosophy to care. The Elon University psychology major explored therapeutic benefits of music on long-term memory. Amanda Brastad, an Oakland resident, completed an internship in speech pathology. A University of Rhode Island communicative disorders and speech pathology major, Ms. Brastad created a money-management activity, allowing participating residents to work on problem-solving, sequencing, following directions, and recalling information. Sophie D’Souza, a Chestnut Ridge, NY, resident and a biology major at the State University of New York at Geneseo, was a Rehabilitation Services intern. She focused on a research-based exercise approach to improve mobility for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

“My internship at Christian Health taught me about the responsibilities of a registered dietitian (RD) and confirmed that I wanted to pursue becoming an RD,” says Sarah Potsma, a 2014 intern in CHCC’s Food and Nutrition Services department. “My internship was extremely beneficial in providing me with practical nutrition experience and ultimately helped me acquire my post-college dietetic internship. There is a 50-percent national match rate for these internships, and I am incredibly grateful that I was accepted into a program right after graduation.”

For more information about internships at CHCC, visit