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Adventures in Caring Offers Compassionate Internship to Future Healthcare Professionals at UCSB

Adventures in Caring interns wear non-threatening Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes to put patients at ease. Click to view larger
Adventures in Caring interns wear non-threatening Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes to put patients at ease. (AiC photo)

On Oct. 4, 2015, UCSB undergraduate students who are pursuing careers in the health professions learned about compassion as a medicine — and how it is applied to promote healing. 

Simon Fox, executive director of the Adventures in Caring Foundation (AiC), with three student interns, spoke to the UCSB Health Professions Association about the AiC service-learning internships in the medicine of compassion.

More than 90 students participate in this one-year program that explores the human element in health care, a program that includes in-depth training, personal interactions with the sick and injured, regular reflection and year-round coaching to develop the advanced listening skills, emotional intelligence and authentic compassion so vital to healing.

Such competencies in the art of connecting with those in pain reduce distress, relieve social isolation and restore well-being to hundreds of frail elderly patients in local hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. 

Attendees learned that the time commitment is two hours per week for one school year (a minimum of 25 visits).

Applicants who are accepted attend a 20-hour experiential training program prior to being assigned a facility to visit.

Fox explained to the students that they would be immersed in a best practices adult learning experience that would produce real transformation in their ability to communicate with anyone — regardless of age, illness, race or culture.

“It is no small thing to form healing partnerships and restore well-being simply by the way you communicate. This is the true art and practice of compassion. Through your year of service you will gain skills that last a lifetime — you will learn the language of healing,” he said.

AiC volunteer interns visit the sick and injured dressed as Raggedy Ann or Andy, characters that the organization has found are so welcoming and non-threatening that they help to open up meaningful conversations in medical environments.

A life-size rag doll appearing at your door creates a momentary pause from what was expected, interrupting trains of anxious thought and depressed moods. The costume breaks the ice and brings a smile — instantly announcing that this is a non-medical conversation.

It’s impossible to say who benefits more — the patients and frail elderly whose spirits are lifted, or the future doctors and nurses who experience compassion by giving it to others.  

Everyone wants their healthcare providers to be both competent and caring. However, compassion and caring are not learned by studying books or attending classes; rather, it must be experienced.  

Adventures in Caring provides a foundation of caring for our future healthcare professionals and has been pioneering the human side of healthcare for 30 years.  

To learn more, visit

— Patti Teel represents Adventures in Caring.

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