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WIU health sciences management alumna Alexis Clark completed her practicum at WIU's Beu Health Center during the Spring 2020 semester.
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WIU Health Sciences and Social Work Students Helping Patients During Pandemic

July 7, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – Despite classes at Western Illinois University being moved from campus to computer, a group of students studying in the health sciences area are helping on the front lines to complete their required practicums.

Working at both local and statewide care centers students have been helping in health services management, public health (both graduate and undergraduate students) and social work.

Before Alexis Clark received her degree in health services management in May, she completed an internship with WIU's Beu Health Center. She said the pandemic greatly impacted her duties at the center.

"The beginning of the internship consisted of the routine internship duties, but my internship experience quickly morphed into something more, " she said. "Interning during the COVID-19 outbreak taught me so much in a short period of time. Due to the pandemic, I was in meetings and assisting in meaningful projects that directly benefited risk management at the University. I could not have asked for a better final semester at WIU and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. (John) Smith, Mr. (Walter) McGath and Mr. (Joe) Roselieb for allowing me to assist in such a significant time at the University.

Recent social work graduate Hannah Biggs, of Pekin, IL, completed her practicum as a healthcare social worker in an Illinois hospital. Biggs said the social worker role has increased significantly in response to COVID-19, as they serve as advocates for the patient population.

"We perform an assessment and ask the patients if there are any needs they have before they leave the agency," he said. "This includes, but is not limited to, spiritual needs, financial concerns, medical equipment and connecting with community resources. For community resources, this could include establishing long term care, outpatient treatment, home health care, hospice, transportation and other resources."

The pandemic has increased the need for these services as some agencies shut down, or others do not accept new patients.

"How do we help our patients when there is a lack of resources," Biggs said. "As social workers, we have six codes of ethics and one of them is service. Our goal with service is to help the patients and address the concerns and needs they present. With the help of the surrounding communities and agencies, we provide options to patients for the services needed. Agencies who are open have gone above and beyond to help patients being accepted into their facilities. This helps us, social workers, as we strive to the best of our abilities to meet our patient's needs as soon as they come in and once they leave."

Another recent social work graduate, Kat Ripolia, of McHenry, IL, worked through Wesley Village in Macomb to complete an internship. Because of the stay-at-home order, her internship started at the facility and ended working remotely from home.

"The stay at home order has taken some adjusting, from seeing residents every day, to not seeing them at all," said Ripoli. "I'm a bit sad I didn't get to say good-bye properly, but I've been working on a project for the staff and residents at Wesley Village as they've worked extremely hard to keep residents safe and happy."

During her time as an intern inside the facility, Ripoli helped with individual and group sessions for residents, orientation for new residents, activity assessments and getting to know Wesley Village's policies.

For more information about health sciences majors at WIU, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing