Overcoming communication obstacles

Chet Cheesman programs some riddles for Seton Hall nursing students, from left, Yasamin Brown, Tara Gillespie and Jenna Mason.

“What happens when a mailman gets old? He loses his zip.” That’s one of several riddles programmed onto Chet Cheesman’s communications device, which he demonstrated to three nursing students from Seton Hall University, who were visiting Matheny’s Adult Learning Center in Hillsborough, NJ. It’s part of the community nursing program at SHU that requires Bachelor of Science in Nursing candidates to spend time in a variety of community nursing settings.

Chet uses a communication device called the ECO2, produced by the Prentke Romich Company, a member of a consortium of companies that provide language and assistive technology products and services to people with disabilities. Chet accesses his device by using a single switch placed on his laptray. The device auto scans through the icons, and, when a light gets to the icon he wants, he hits his switch to activate the area.

“You never know what you’re going to have to be able to do,” explained SHU student Jenna Mason. “We want to cover all bases.”  In addition to visiting with Cheesman, the students learned how other nonverbal Matheny adults communicate. In some cases, that meant trying to understand an eye-gazing system in which the eyes alone are used to trigger verbal messages. “It helps us to see what some of the obstacles are,” said Tara Gillespie, “and how to overcome them.”

In addition to the community nursing requirement, Seton Hall’s B.S.N. program takes in all areas of nursing practice, including nursing of adults, childbearing families and childrearing families and psychiatric/mental health nursing.  At Matheny, nurses focus on maintaining wellness, so that our patients can benefit fully from participation in our therapy, education, recreation and community programs.

Chet’s communications device.

It’s not just a job—it’s a family

Nancy Harriman had been living in Peapack-Gladstone, N.J., for about 10 years, while working as a part-time nurse at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. “And then I asked myself, ‘Why am I driving so far when there’s a place right in my town?’” she recalls.

Thus began Harriman’s now 19-year-career at Matheny. This July, she was named adult medical day nurse at Matheny’s Adult Learning Center in Hillsborough.

At the center, Harriman, a registered nurse, oversees the care and treatment of 27 adult day patients who come from Matheny’s group homes and from the community. In addition, another 12 to 14 adults from Matheny are transported to the Hillsborough facility every day, participating in recreation and fine art activities, computer classes and a variety of life skills classes.

Harriman, seen above with Matheny group home resident Paul Santo, received her BSN from Rutgers-Newark, and her first job was at Morristown Memorial. In addition to Saint Barnabas, she has worked at the Lyons VA Hospital in Bernards Township and Overlook Medical Center in Summit.

Matheny’s Adult Learning Center, she says, “is very special. The people who work here are selfless. They do everything for others. And the students and patients at Matheny become like family. You see them grow up. It becomes a part of you that you don’t want to leave behind.”