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Nov. 14, 2012
For the past year, Tanya Friese, MSN, RN, CNL, and Maureen McLachlan, MSN, RN, have been working on a project to increase accessibility to exercise, healthy eating and other wellness-related activities for clients and staff of Chicago Lighthouse for People who are Blind or Visually Impaired. In October, the Lighthouse awarded Friese and McLachlan the Community Partners’ Award for their work. This award honors distinguished volunteers and individuals from supporting companies or institutions who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help people who are blind or visually impaired. 
Friese, a clinical instructor in community, systems and mental health in the College of Nursing, has worked at the Lighthouse as a faculty practice nurse since 2006. She’s well aware of the need to promote wellness at no additional cost to a not-for-profit agency. In 2010, she implemented a workplace wellness program for Chicago Lighthouse clients and staff who were overweight or who needed more physical activity. The program helped more than 80 individuals and three service dogs in the facility.
“Trying to create positive, sustainable change is at the core of community health nursing interventions,” Friese says. “My goal with Chicago Lighthouse was to expand the existing program to create a sustainable wellness program driven from within and directed by generalist entry master’s (GEM) nursing students from Rush University. Students benefit from experience in working with diverse populations, including individuals with special needs.”
In January of this year, a group of GEM students added to the original wellness program, creating “Fitness Fridays.” To sustain the program’s momentum, GEM graduatem, McLachlan, coordinated an additional 10-week program of adaptive fitness and healthy habits. On a weekly basis, nursing student volunteers conducted weigh-ins, answered health-related questions, provided wellness screenings, offered healthy eating tips and provided encouragements. Large-print handouts featured weekly recipes, exercises, Web and mobile phone resources, health screening guidelines and a food diary.
Currently, a walking program is in process, encouraging partnership and guidance for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. A peer support group is also being explored.  Future projects for GEM students include a “Turkey Trot” exercise challenge, an influenza vaccine campaign, and a healthy recipe cookbook available in large print and Braille with contributions from staff and clients. “The Lighthouse Wellness Program, fostered by a clinical nurse leader and facilitated by Rush GEM nursing students, continues to this day,” Friese says.
More information on the Chicago Lighthouse.
Photo caption: (from left) Tanya Friese, MSN, RN, CNL, and Maureen McLachlan, MSN, RN

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