Southeastern Louisiana University students are reaping the rewards of a program in partnership with North Oaks Health System. The students, as well as other area health care workers, are gaining valuable experience through the Health Transition Alliance program at North Oaks, where they are preparing to work as health coaches, a news release from university officials said.

As part of the program, Southeastern students are being trained to provide follow-up consultation with patients after they are discharged, with the intent of reducing the number of patient readmissions to the hospital, the release said.

They ensure that the patients are following physicians’ instructions for home care, including taking medications, following a prescribed diet, using appropriate therapies and scheduling follow-up visits with their physicians.

According to Ralph Wood, professor of health education and promotion, Southeastern is thought to be the only university in Louisiana providing this level of training to undergraduate students.

The Health Transition Alliance program trains the health coaches to work with diagnoses of heart attack, chronic obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure and pneumonia.

The program is funded by a three-year $351,989 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the release said.

Under Wood’s guidance, Southeastern students enrolled in the Internship in Health Education and Promotion course are participating in the training opportunity. Students who are enrolled next semester in internships in exercise science, fitness or sports management will have the same opportunity to participate in the program.

“This internship has offered a wide variety of experience,” said Bobijo Bode, a health education and promotion senior from Covington. “We have had the opportunity to view health care from the perspective of nurse, social worker, health coach and patient, both in the hospital setting and in the patient’s home.”

“This internship opportunity is just another example of Southeastern setting the curve of innovative partnerships and training opportunities for our students,” Wood said. “Students will learn the process of health coaching, as well as receive substantial training in motivational interviewing.”