$1 million grant awarded for nurse practitioner curriculum
By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services
East Carolina University’s College of Nursing will receive $1.09 million in federal funds over the next three years to integrate interprofessional education and expand the use of an existing virtual community clinic in the nurse practitioner curriculum.
ECU will receive $366,846 this fiscal year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.
The funds will allow ECU medical, dental and social work students to join adult gerontology nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner students in clinical learning experiences that promote interprofessional collaboration – a team approach similar to what students will experience in the workplace after graduation.
Students will focus on patients with multiple chronic conditions. Those are defined as two or more physical or mental conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV infection, depression, substance abuse or dementia that last one year or more, limit daily activities and require ongoing medical monitoring.
“This project will help us to continue to develop innovative teaching strategies through the use of technology and interprofessional education to prepare students to meet the health care needs of a diverse, rural and underserved patient population,” said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing.
The grant also will expand on an existing Web-based Virtual Community Clinic Learning Environment, a format similar to Second Life, a 3D virtual world. Nurse practitioner and other health sciences student will work together to solve case-based health care scenarios involving patients with multiple chronic conditions.
“By enhancing interprofessional education competencies throughout the curriculum, health care professionals can better understand the roles and strengths that each professional brings, break down artificially drawn silos and enhance patient-centered care in an evolving health care delivery system,” said project director Dr. Bobby Lowery, assistant professor of nursing and director of the doctor of nursing practice program.
Studies have shown that effective communication among various health care providers helps reduce preventable medical errors.
The virtual community clinic lets students see all types of conditions in an electronic application, but doesn’t replace traditional clinical experiences. The virtual clinic gives students the opportunity to diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses and pathologies that they may not see otherwise, officials said.
Officials will collaborate with the James D. Bernstein Community Health Center and Robeson Health Care Corporation, which serve economically disadvantaged, minority populations; the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, an inter-institutional partnership, which will prepare students to care for patients who work in rural occupations in eastern North Carolina such as farming, logging and fishing; and the Office of Clinical Skills Assessment and Education at the Brody School of Medicine which provides standardized patient simulated case scenarios.
In 2011, 78 percent of the nurse practitioners who graduated from ECU practiced in underserved areas. All students complete clinical experiences in underserved areas that serve disadvantaged individuals, Lowery said.