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Sharing Their Expertise

“Our staff and especially our management team, represent some of the finest and most talented professionals in senior living,” said Mark Trnka, executive director at Monarch Landing. “As a leader, it is incumbent upon us to share our experiences and expertise with the next generation of senior living professionals.”

Trnka referred to Monarch Landing’s internship initiatives with area colleges and universities. This year, the senior living community is hosting three interns. Amanda Cox is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in exercise science at North Central College and applying for physical therapy school. Angela Bianchi and Ruth Wilke are both working on their master’s degrees in nursing with a focus on healthcare leadership from Elmhurst College.

Shannon Denny, wellness coordinator, is overseeing Cox in the fitness and aquatics center at Monarch Landing. A strong advocate of internships, Denny believes both parties benefit immensely. “It’s crucial for students to get practical experience. Professionals going into any given field should know how to do things safely and correctly,” she said, “From the employer’s perspective, It’s a give back to the field. We’re getting good professionals into the workforce.”



Prior to coming to Monarch Landing, Cox said she had little experience with the senior population. Since working there, she said, she’s learned that there’s an essential opportunity for fitness professionals to “keep older adults healthy and active.”

The nursing internship program which is in its third year, is being coordinated at Monarch Landing by Sara Friel, director of resident experience. With an extensive background in nursing, healthcare administration and leadership, and more than 30 years of experience working with seniors, Friel is not only well-positioned to oversee the interns, but also proud to do so. “I am always excited to have the opportunity to promote senior care. I feel like Monarch Landing has so much that we can offer. Our vibrant independent living residents introduce the students to their active and engaging lifestyle. Because we are a Life Plan Community, they are also able to see the benefits of having all levels of care available if a resident’s needs change. Our residents are so wonderful and welcoming to the students; they enjoy having the young people around and the students, in turn, are really enjoying interacting with them.”

Friel said that the interns spend time in the fitness center learning about wellness programs, the Daybreak adult day care, the medical center, and The Springs Healthcare and Rehab Center at Monarch Landing. “The students have the opportunity to see the entire scope of our offerings and the services to which our residents have access.”

Friel said that an added bonus to the internship program, is the possibility that it will help steer students to the senior living field. “I fell in love with this population when I worked part-time at a retirement community when I was in high school, and that shaped my career. I’m hoping that given the opportunity for young people to experience what I did, they might make that same decision.”