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The College of Nursing is receiving $2.5 million in grants to care for the underserved at a Knox County school clinic while gaining invaluable learning experiences.

The two grants from Human Resources Services Administration in the US Department of Health and Human Services are a million dollars more than the college’s research funding total for fiscal year 2012.

Both grants will benefit children at Vine School Health Center—and eight other schools linked to the center by telehealth connections—through the promotion of interprofessional care and real world training for students. Telehealth is the use of digital technologies to deliver medical care, health education, and public health services by connecting multiple users in separate locations.

“These grants will propel our efforts to train health and other professionals together to improve access to holistic health and wellness services for children in our communities,” said Dean Victoria Niederhauser.

The first grant, about a million dollars over three years, will leverage telehealth technology to deliver improved health care to patients who have limited access. The funding will establish UT’s first “interprofessional education” effort for advanced nursing education by allowing graduate students in nursing, medical, pharmacy, and industrial engineering to learn together in simulated and patient care clinical environments.

“This funding creates a unique opportunity for students studying in these four professional fields to work together,” said Peggy Pierce, project director and nursing assistant professor. “The industrial engineering students are an especially unique component in this program in which they will work with the health professions students to evaluate factors influencing the safety and quality of care and bring expertise in documenting and analyzing the processes in simulated and real-life scenarios.”

All students will undergo intensive eight-week rotations involving web-based and face-to-face team education, simulations, and telehealth team-based clinical education in delivery of care at school-based clinics.

Pierce noted that using online and distance education with interprofessional teams will allow students to engage in the learning process with one another, even when schedules make it difficult. A total of 168 students are expected to participate over the three years.

The second grant, totaling about $1.5 million over three years, will allow students to work with nurses, social workers, and special education teachers at Vine School Health Center. The collaboration will improve holistic care for children and their families served by the center.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance care for our patients as our nurses develop skills to work with other professionals in the clinic,” said Nan Gaylord, project director and nursing associate professor. “It also allows our students to improve their ability to communicate in an interprofessional practice and to solve complex clinical, educational, and psychosocial problems.”

The long-term goal of this project is to establish a collaborative practice environment for underserved children and families at the clinic.

“It is critical for our health professionals to be educated in delivering patient-centered care as members of an interdisciplinary team,” Niederhauser said. “This effort allows us to emphasize evidence-based practice and quality improvement approaches to produce the best health professionals possible.”

UT’s College of Nursing is a nationally recognized leader. The college enrolls more than 600 students in undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs. The master’s program offers concentration areas in global disaster, family practice, administration, pediatrics, mental health and nurse anesthesia. For more information, visit nursing.utk.edu.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)