A Work of Heart: ALS Patient Bonds with Student Nurses

In 2021, as COVID restrictions were slowly lifting, ECPI University Greenville faculty member, Dr. Shelia Jennings-Jeter, led a group of Nursing Concepts students in one of their first clinical assignments at a long-term care facility in Greer, SC.

A warm-hearted PN student named Caroline Ellis was assigned to a resident named Allen Grider. Allen had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” and was debilitated by the disease.

“The pair bonded immediately, and Allen thrived in the clinical visits,” says Carolyn Miller, ECPI University – Greenville’s Director of Nursing. “He often shared with Caroline and her peers how the disease manifested and progressed. Allen was patient while Caroline learned, and enjoyed feeling like he was part of the education process for her and her classmates.” 

The interactions continued as the students progressed through clinical experiences at the same facility for different courses.

Dr. Jennings-Jeter was touched by the compassion, caring and humanitarian love between Allen and the students, but especially Caroline. That’s why she wasn’t too surprised when Allen expressed the desire to see Caroline’s pinning ceremony. Without ECPI students’ love, care and attention, he shared, “his outcome wouldn’t have been as good.” 

“Dr. Jennings-Jeter received all proper approvals and permissions to take him to the pinning,” says Carolyn. “She bought him clothes, helped him get ready, and she and her husband escorted Allen to dinner before surprising Caroline and her peers at the pinning.” 

Caroline’s thank you note to her family and friends was read as she was being pinned, and Allen was recognized as a special guest of ECPI University that evening. He wept as he sat surrounded by the nursing faculty. Sadly after the event, Allen let Dr. Jennings-Jeter know he had received an unfavorable prognosis and had enrolled in Hospice Care. 

“Our entire Greenville campus feels like this is the culture of our campus,” says Carolyn. “Dr. Jennings-Jeter teaches and encourages holistic care of all humans and sets the example of how to show care and compassion. The student nurses, like Caroline, come to ECPI University ready to learn those lessons. And our community recognizes how we impact lives every day.”

Nursing – it really is a work of heart.

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