In their first year studying to become registered nurses, students at Western Nevada College spend two days a week working at Carson Nursing and Rehab.
They perform physical assessments, assist with meals, administer medication, test blood sugars and other basic procedures.
"It's different than just reading it in a book," said student Mallory Mullicane. "When you're able to apply it, it really puts meaning behind it."
However, they have learned the job goes beyond technical skills, often spending time with residents playing games or just having conversations.
"You have to build a companionship," said Erica Stepro. "You're giving care, not just doing work."
For the first time, the college has partnered with the assisted living facility to give first-year students the opportunity to apply the skills they've learned in the classroom.
"For many, this is their first contact in a real clinical situation," said WNC nursing instructor Sara Maul. "This kind of eases them into acute care (at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center), which will be next semester. It's a a nice partnership."
Mike Ball, executive director for Carson Nursing and Rehab, said the relationship is mutually beneficial.
"I think it's a good resource for learning and teaching," he said. "The residents really respond to nursing students, they have time to listen. And the residents are good role models for the students."
Ball said allowing students into the center works to dispel preconceived notions about long-term care, pointing out that most of the residents there will eventually return home after rehabilitation.
Kristen Whitmore, a student in the program, agreed.
"You have these stereotypes of nursing homes, that they're sad places," she said. "This breaks all those stereotypes."
Earlier this week, Stepro helped resident Nancy Carroll paint her fingernails a holiday red. Carroll said they sometimes rub her shoulders, in addition to the medical procedures.
"It's the only way they're going to learn," she said. "And I don't mind being bugged."