Courtesy of Valley Medical Center. Renton Technical College medical students.

Courtesy of Valley Medical Center. Renton Technical College medical students.

New course on track for future med students

Valley Medical Center and RTC collaborate on new program

Colette is a student in a new program in Renton that has changed how she views taking care of others.

For several months, she’s been able to sit in a patient’s home and talk to her about not just the patient’s chronic illness. They’ve also talked about the patient’s life and the different setbacks and circumstances that made it hard to take care of her needs.

“I have learned more from my patient than I ever thought I could,” Colette stated in a written testimonial.”Looking at a patient as a whole and not just someone with a condition has been a life changing experience for me.”

Valley Medical Center partnered with Renton Technical College (RTC) to create a free education program that offers real-world experience and working individual patients managing chronic illnesses.

The students not only learn the health care industry but also get to directly help Renton folks with their needs and become Health Coaches.

Laurie King, Valley Medical Center Health Coach program manager, said a Health Coach encourages patients to work on their own self-management techniques to improve their health care.

Students began in Fall 2018 with an 11-week academic course, once a week for two hours, with no tests or quizzes. Valley Medical Center physicians, administrators, a registered nurse, licensed social worker and dietician taught the class at the RTC campus.

The course covers diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hypertension and heart disease. The students also examine important patient health factors like mental illness, barriers to health care and cultural competency.

Health Coaches work with patients that have at least one chronic illness, so King said they want the students to understand the problem while being able to empathetically help patients navigate resources. Students also need to understand stressors going on in the patient’s life that are creating barriers to health care, including not having transportation to doctor appointments.

After completing the academic course, the students volunteer with patients in an eight-month volunteer program. The pilot year is in this step of the program, which ends in August 2019.

The program is loosely based on neurologist, speaker and health researcher Dr. Barry Bittman’s first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary community Health Coach curriculum, modified to meet Valley patients common needs, King said.

In just this first pilot year of the program, students helped their patients decrease blood pressure, better understand their medications, improve communication with their physicians and access specialists and outside resources.

“If (the health coach program) had not come around, I wouldn’t be on top of things and wouldn’t be making progress,” Patient Capucene stated in a program testimonial. “It takes a lot of stress off.”

The Health Coach program creates a cycle of helping students, while they help patients. Valley Medical Center pays for the course and offers students a $1,500 stipend after they finished the program to continue their health care education.

Students also got self-management techniques for chronic illness and resources in the area, something one student Health Coach stated helped them.

“The program has improved my parenting approach, my sense of empowerment as I work on my own health goals,” student Ngocloan stated in a program testimonial. “Improved my professional communication, increased my confidence working in a medical environment, and overall (to) work better in team(s).”

King is looking for folks who are enthusiastic about helping the community, learning more about chronic illnesses and how the health care system works. The deadline to apply for the next program is Aug. 1.

Those over 18 interested in a medical career or just volunteering to do some good in the area can register to the class through rtc.edu/HealthCoach, or contact King directly at 425-690-6667.

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