Aims students and instructors recently volunteered their time to help give veterans an experience they will not soon forget.
Sunday morning – a time when most students are sleeping in, catching up with friends and family or just generally taking a mental break from their heavy class schedules and busy lives. But for Aims Nursing students, Dulce Gonzalez and Jennifer Lee, this Sunday morning started a little earlier. It’s 7 a.m. and they are on their way to Thornton to join Aims instructor, Ani Matt, where the three will volunteer their time and put their medical skills to the test.
Trident Veteran Adaptive Programs (TVAP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing veterans with unique adventures and activities. This particular day, TVAP is hosting a free SCUBA clinic that will teach veterans how to SCUBA dive. Gonzalez, Lee and Matt will be volunteering their time by assisting with physical assessments for the veterans to ensure they will have a safe diving experience.
“Our job is to review the participants medical history to ensure it is safe for them to dive. The goal is not to turn anyone away but rather make appropriate and safe accommodations as needed,” said instructor, Matt. “The students are required to engage in critical thinking, therapeutic communication and basic review of pharmacology and medical surgical concepts. These are all principals that we go over in class constantly and it was a wonderful experience to watch the students execute them in a real-world scenario,” she added.
Upon arrival, the three had the opportunity to get in the pool and learn how to dive taught by certified instructors with TVAP. Lee was surprised by the opportunity to be a participant. “We showed up to guide participants on any health concerns but they all immediately made it very clear we needed to get in the water and join in the scuba experience,” she said. “We were not prepared so a trip to Walmart for shorts and t-shirts occurred.”
They then began their assessments on the veterans as they arrive. The group was diverse which gave the students the opportunity to work with veterans of different ages and past injuries. Gonzalez and Lee witnessed firsthand how encouraging words, patience and a strong will can help people overcome fears. They shared their own initial fears, insights and experience with the veterans and also celebrated all the successful dives with the participants.
Saturday was a long, but extremely rewarding day for Gonzalez and Lee. “The experience was amazing, I had no idea what I was walking into when I sign up for it but I loved it,” said Gonzalez. “It wasn't just another ‘volunteer activity’ because we got to be involved with everyone there and it was very rewarding.”
The day started with them wanting to help veterans participate in an incredible experience. It ended with an experience of their own that they won’t soon forget. “It was an experience of a life time and a new bucket list item. I’m so glad I took a break from the grind to give back to our vets and in return they gave me a once in a lifetime experience,” Lee concluded.