Invenio 2011

Nursing Projects Help Provide Access and Success

The JoAnne Gay Dishman Department of Nursing gives communities access to disaster-preparedness education and nursing students the tools for success.

“It is imperative that we are proactive in preparing for the forecasted shortfall of nurses in Texas.”

Gerald Bryant,
chief nursing officer for Baptist Beaumont Hospital

Nursing Dept meetingHelping people is what nursing is all about. The JoAnne Gay Dishman Department of Nursing is helping nurses with associate degrees earn bachelor’s degrees while at the same time providing disaster education to rural and/or medically underserved people with disabilities or special needs. The department is also helping nursing students by providing online resources, seminars and workshops so they can learn better study strategies for academic success.

Increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses through a career ladder advancement program and promoting public health safety and homeland security by preparing a nurse workforce knowledgeable about disaster preparedness are the main purposes of the Academic Collaboration and Caring for Educational Success and Service (ACCESS) project. Through the project, licensed vocational/practical nurses and registered nurses with associate degrees in nursing will earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing through the partnership of Lamar University and three community colleges. As an added benefit, the project provides needed disaster education to hundreds of rural and/or medically underserved people with disabilities or special needs.

Nursing faculty working on the project include Eileen Deges Curl, department chair and professor, as project director; Carol Hammonds, instructor, as co-project director; and Patti Moss, assistant professor, and Iva Hall, associate professor, as disaster education experts. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services funded the grant, which began in 2008 and runs to 2011, for $748,347.

Five DVDs addressing disaster preparedness, response and recovery were developed by Lamar nursing faculty to teach nursing students at Lamar and Lee College in Baytown how to provide disaster-related nursing care. Experience with Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike indicates that individuals with disabilities or special needs have a more difficult time coping physically, and often financially and emotionally, with the aftermath of hurricanes.

Individuals and families with disabilities or special needs and those living in rural areas with fewer community resources need to plan ahead to prepare for hurricanes and identify resources to provide assistance during hurricane recovery.

Through the ACCESS grant, nursing students from Lamar University and Lee College make home visits to families to develop personalized hurricane preparedness, response and recovery plans. Nursing students from Lamar also teach rural community and church groups, senior citizens, dialysis patients and many others about how to prepare for hurricanes. Individuals and families in 25 counties in Texas and Louisiana have benefited from the grant through the work of many nursing students. “We had originally wanted to help five counties but the great work of the nursing students resulted in being able to reach residents of many more counties,” Curl said, adding that close to 700 individuals have been helped so far.

The results are positive. “Individuals, families and groups the nursing students worked with have been asked to provide evaluation data about the disaster nursing care they received,” Curl said. “Feedback has been very positive.” Many people were not aware of specific supplies that are critical in a disaster. Individuals living in rural areas who attended the nursing students’ presentations often had not realized how isolated they would be from urgent-care facilities if a hurricane hit the area. Students also taught groups about the many resources available to assist them following a hurricane.

“Evaluation data from the nursing students participating in the grant have also been positive,” Curl said. “For example, one student said she is more vigilant in watching the weather and knows how to be better prepared. Another student said she is more assertive with the families of patients, telling them that staying with the patient is not an option and that they need to leave the area in an evacuation situation. From the project, students became better aware of special-needs populations and that they, more than anyone, need to have a disaster plan. This makes the students more knowledgeable about disasters when they become nurses as well.”

Another positive aspect of the ACCESS grant is increasing partnerships with community colleges and providing a seamless transition to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) education for nurses graduating from associate degree nursing (ADN) programs. Lamar is partnering with Lee College, Lamar State College–Orange and Lamar State College–Port Arthur to make this happen.

After gaining access to a bachelor’s degree, nursing students look for success. Students Understanding Course Content Essential for Success in School (SUCCESS) focuses on keeping more students in the nursing program and increasing the number of graduates, especially minority and international students. The nursing department is partnering with Baptist Beaumont Hospital on a grant funded for $258,204 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and $25,820 from the hospital. Curl is the project director and Hall is the co-project director on the project that started fall 2010.

SUCCESS consists of tools and resources for student retention used previously by other universities while building on traditional Lamar practices. Online-resource modules, academicsuccess seminars, academic workshops and a resource center are available for students needing assistance with complex content. Laptops loaded with nursing software are also available for nursing students to help them improve classroom performance. The nursing department received one of six grants awarded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board under the Nursing Innovation Grant Program. Lamar qualified for the “best practices” category in Clinical Education Competitions in which award selections were based on project quality and reviewed by several higher-education faculty members from across Texas as well as a member of the Texas Board of Nursing.

“We are honored to be participating in the SUCCESS Program,” said Gerald Bryant, chief nursing officer for Baptist Beaumont Hospital. “Providing funding to our local university will provide health benefits to the entire community. It is imperative that we are proactive in preparing for the forecasted shortfall of nurses in Texas. Statistics reveal that by the year 2012, nurses in their 50s are expected to become the largest segment of the nursing workforce, accounting for almost one-quarter of the RN population. As many of these nurses are preparing to exit the healthcare arena, Lamar and Baptist Beaumont Hospital have partnered to make sure that quality nursing is available in Southeast Texas.”

The nursing department has high quality standards and a lengthy history of high state board scores. Employers of Lamar’s graduates frequently express positive feedback about them, Curl said. Some students have difficulty progressing in the nursing program due to academic, language, cultural or other factors. To promote students’ success during nursing school, the department is researching what student factors predict graduation. The grant explores factors including reading comprehension, knowledge base in anatomy and physiology, and language abilities. For students who might be at-risk of not succeeding in the program, early identification and helpful strategies may increase the likelihood that these students can be successful.

Faculty members are using three learning strategies that have been “best practices” in other programs to evaluate if the strategies provide the assistance some students need to meet their career goals of becoming nurses. “The department goal is to provide resources for students from a broad array of backgrounds so that more graduates and, ultimately, nurses in the workforce reflect the diversity also seen in the patients for whom nurses provide care,” Curl said.