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A new telehealth certificate program being developed at UTMB School of Nursing aims to improve care for patients in rural areas, where there are often not enough health care professionals to meet the communities' needs.

Innovations in Healthcare Delivery in Rural and Underserved Communities: A Stackable Telehealth Certificate has been funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) through the Accelerating Credentials of Purpose and Value Grant Program. Dr. Kristen Starnes-Ott, director, and Dr. Jacquelyn Svoboda, co-director, are working on course development with plans to launch in January 2023.

The shortage of trained health care professionals in rural areas was a problem prior to COVID-19, but as Dr. Starnes-Ott says, The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this problem and highlighted the inadequacies of our current healthcare system to reach the most vulnerable communities in need.

According to the Texas Rural Health Association and Rural Health Hub, there are 64 counties in the state without a hospital, 25 counties without a physician, and 75% of counties are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). For telehealth to be a widely adopted solution across Texas, providers need resources, education, and support to eliminate barriers and successfully implement telehealth tools into modern healthcare practice, Dr. Starnes-Ott says.

She points out that many health care institutions shifted to a telehealth model as an emergency measure when the pandemic began, but much was done without training. With proper preparation, training, and implementation, she says, telehealth has great potential to help patients receive needed care in areas with a shortage of health care providers.

The SON's program will consist of a three-semester (12 months), nine-credit certificate offering evidence-based techniques in telehealth patient presentation, telehealth etiquette, and telehealth coordination. It will utilize the four Ps of telehealth: planning, preparing, providing, and performance evaluation.

These foundational pillars will guide the development and implementation of the program, which will include synchronous and asynchronous online sessions, as well as modular engagement with standardized patient encounters to provide collaborative, competency-based practicum opportunities. The University of Texas Virtual Health Network, which supports UT System campuses in leveraging technology to improve health care, is a consortium partner in the program.

Individuals from all health care disciplines who have direct patient care roles and a minimum of a bachelor's degree are encouraged to apply. Preference will be placed on applicants from rural health providers in Texas.

The SON is also partnering with Texas Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) East, which links 100 East Texas counties and more than 18 million people to community health workforce development, health opportunities, and resources. Through this partnership, the SON may identify and market to potential applicants that are interested in starting or enhancing their telehealth programs in rural areas and clinics.

The program directors anticipate admitting 20 students this Fall to begin the program in January.

Upon completion of the program, students will earn a certificate. Credits earned may then be applied toward a graduate degree. However, the program is also designed to be beneficial on its own, equipping healthcare providers with tools to better meet rural communities' healthcare needs.

If the student completes the entire certificate offering, the offering will culminate in a 'toolkit' for the student to start a telehealth program in a patient care clinic, Dr. Starnes-Ott said.

Dr. Svoboda says, By utilizing innovative strategies and platforms, students will strengthen their confidence and their ability to apply telehealth in clinical practice settings.

Applications for the program will open this Fall. Visit the SON's Certificates page to learn more.

Dr. Heidi Luft, a professor in the School of Nursing at University of Texas Medical Branch, highlighted the importance of teamwork plus the need for training and investment in mental health research during a recent webinar, the Dominican Republic news outlet reported. "Most people need more training to be able to do this teamwork effectively," Luft said.

We are excited to share a new learning opportunity available for our students. Apple has recently launched a new weekly series of open sessions titled 'Campus Leader Virtual Workshops'.

These workshops are tailored to students and provides the opportunity to hear from Campus Leaders (also current students) to learn tips, tricks, and tools that will enhance their learning experience. These topics are updated on Fridays and cover a variety of subjects that can help improve your productivity on the iPad.

Next week’s topics of interest include:

Week of Friday, October 15, 2021 – Friday, October 22, 2021
Note taking with iPad
Friday, October 15, 1:00pm-2:00pm CDT
iPad Basics
Friday, October 15, 7:00pm-8:00pm CDTMonday, October 18 ,12:00pm-1:00pm CDT
Monday, October 18 ,3:00pm-4:00pm CDT
Introduction to Note Taking
Tuesday, October 19, 2:00pm-3:00pm CDT
Creativity with iPad + Apple Pencil
Wednesday, October 20, 6:00pm-7:00pm CDT
Drawing with Apple Pencil
Thursday, October 21, 3:00pm-4:00pm CDT
iPad Productivity for Students
Thursday, October 21, 4:00pm-5:00pm CDT
Note Taking Workshop
Friday, October 22, 1:00pm-2:00pm CDT

For more information or to register for any of these workshops, please visit: http://s.apple.com/dE0n4T3E2c

iLead program recognized for innovative use of iPads by BSN students

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston School of Nursing (UTMB SON) has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for 2021-2024. The nursing school's program called iLead (Innovative Learning Environment Accelerating Discovery) was recognized for innovation in learning, teaching, and leading with technology in the classroom.

Apple Distinguished Schools qualify as centers of innovation, leadership, and educational excellence. These schools use Apple technology to connect students to the world, fuel creativity, deepen collaboration, and make learning personal.

Recognition of UTMB School of Nursing as an Apple Distinguished School highlights our success in creating an innovative and compelling learning environment that engages students and provides tangible evidence of academic achievement, said Dean Deborah J. Jones, PhD, MSN, RN. Delivering high-quality education is essential to our success, and iPad technology keeps everyone connected.

At orientation, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students are issued an iPad and Apple Pencil. Faculty members – most of whom are Apple Certified Teachers – employ Apple technology to engage the students in project collaborations, presentations, course assignments, simulation labs, and research activities in the BSN Traditional curriculum. Additionally the Apple technology is used to facilitate simulated clinical practice settings.

Our experience demonstrates that one-to-one iPad implementation facilitates students' active learning and empowers innovative pedagogy for educating future nurses, said Chair for Undergraduate Studies Patricia Richard, PhD, RN.

The power and immediacy of the iPad technology enhances students' engagement and encourages critical thinking in a manner equally accessible to all students.

More than 1,100 iPads have been distributed since iLead began in summer 2019, and students have reported that the iPad has been a positive addition to their learning experience. Having access to the iPad helped me better organize my notes and textbooks onto one device, saved me money by purchasing e-versions of the textbooks instead of paper copies, and really transformed how I utilize technology for learning, said Daniel Frost, 2021 BSN graduate. Before coming to school here, I had never used an iPad or tablet. I appreciate the efforts that everyone at UTMB has put into implementing this technology initiative.

UTMB School of Nursing has a tradition of embracing new educational technology, Dean Jones said. In fact, the graduate program began using iPads to facilitate clinical site visits. Sheba Luke, DNP, MSN, RN, assistant professor in our Department of Graduate Studies, confirms that the use of FaceTime to evaluate the progress of our nurse practitioner students in their clinical sites is an innovative method utilizing this technology.

Faculty observe the students via FaceTime on their iPads as the student performs a history and physical on a patient in their clinical setting along with their preceptor. This method proved to be an effective and efficient way to evaluate student clinical progress virtually versus in-person, said Luke.

The use of a videoconferencing platform for virtual clinical site visits provides the student an introduction to the concepts of telehealth as technology and information literacy is one of the nurse practitioner core competencies. The ability to be innovate and proficient with the use of technology is a necessary skill to develop for future health care providers.

We look forward to expanding iLead throughout the curriculum and further implementing innovative ideas for teaching and learning, said Dean Jones. The Apple Distinguished Schools program is by invitation only for accredited public and private schools that meet the program qualifications and eligibility requirements. Recognition is for three years, with an opportunity to be invited to continue in the program.

Read more about UTMB SON's iLead program HERE.

In Population Health Nursing, a third-semester course in the UTMB School of Nursing BSN curriculum, the students are afforded real-world experiences that also benefit the communities we serve.

Each semester, Population Health faculty members team up with community partners to assess the needs of whole populations and allow students to gain meaningful nursing experiences in a diverse range of settings.

Dr. Annalyn DeMello, assistant professor in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, worked in community health for years, prior to becoming a nurse. While hospital and clinic nursing addresses treatment of a disease or injury, community health and population health aims to prevent disease and injury from occurring or becoming worse, she says.

Furthermore, to improve health and to prevent disease and injury, we need to engage whole communities. A person's health is affected and can be modified by their behaviors, people around them, communities, and overarching systems. To treat a person and those in their 'population,' we need to understand the communities they live in. This includes understanding their barriers, facilitators, attitudes, and preferences for change, DeMello said.

This summer, DeMello coordinated initiatives with YMCA Camp Cullen and Galveston Central Church for her Population Health students.

At Camp Cullen – a summer camp at Lake Livingston where youth enjoy sports, water activities, arts and crafts, and education – nursing students performed critical functions to support a safe camp environment.

We spent the week performing our nursing skills in assessment and treatment of camp injuries, such as stings, sprains, splinters, stomachaches, and administering medications. Other objectives included helping kids through homesickness and camp counselors through compassion fatigue, commonly known as burnout, DeMello said.

Joy Gooden, one of the students who participated at Camp Cullen, appreciated the opportunity to apply not only the technical nursing skills she has learned, but also her communication skills in a therapeutic way.

I was able to build positive and effective relationships with the staff, counselors, and campers. They felt comfortable confiding in me, and I was able to provide purposeful solutions to help the day flow more efficiently, Gooden said.

At Galveston Central Church, which provides significant support to Galveston’s homeless population, DeMello’s students engaged in an eight-week interprofessional initiative to provide health services to community members, including assessments, foot care, lab draws, dentistry, social work, and physician consultations.

As a supplement to the Central Church initiative, nursing students took part in a week-long competition with other UTMB students to generate donations for community members in need. Thanks to the support of the UTMB Alumni Association, the School of Medicine’s Vesalius Osler Society, students, faculty, and staff, Galveston community members were given a total of 15 new pairs of shoes, 13 backpacks, 11 pants, 29 reusable water bottles, and 12 boxes of toiletries.

Christen Sadler, assistant professor in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, has also organized opportunities for Population Health students to give back, including a donation drive that yielded more than 4,500 diapers and training pants for the Galveston Diaper Bank. Her students also volunteered for Project CURE, an organization that helps distribute donated medical supplies.

For students like Gooden, these experiences represent more than the fulfillment of a requirement in a class. They present a different, valuable view of how nurses can be effective team members in a multitude of settings and situations.

I have enjoyed Population Health because it has given me the opportunity to reinforce my nursing skills and knowledge outside of the hospital setting, she said. It has opened my eyes to a different sector of nursing that is equally as important as traditional clinical care.

DeMello emphasizes the importance of students in the course learning how to address the health needs of whole groups of people, not just single individuals.

They learn how to do a needs assessment and develop sustainable interventions with the input of key informants from the targeted population. Really, what we target are social determinants of health, which cuts to the heart of many of today's health problems, DeMello said. Addressing people in their communities, in their homes, and through the larger systems that affect them is how we improve a population's health.

Our 127 summer population health students contributed approximately 1200 hours towards vaccinating the community against COVID-19, over 1524 hours working onsite with and on behalf of specific populations, and 4519 diapers to families in need. We feel proud of this group and excited to launch our fall initiatives next month.

SON Shout Outs

Dr. Verklan

​Congratulations on being selected as a committee member for the American Association of Critical Care Nurses 2021 Acute and Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist Practice Analysis Task Force to review the roles/responsibilities of the critical care CNS.​

Congratulations to our Nursing PhD students for receiving the following awards: Emily Blumenthal, Doctoral Program of the School of Nursing Scholarship; Angela Mcgaskey, J. Michael Leger, PhD, RN Family Nursing PhD Scholarship; Keili Peterman, Lois E. Nickerson, R.N. Endowed Scholarship; Emily Blumenthal, Mariann Blum, Ph.D. Endowed Presidential Scholarship; Lisa Letz, Marie and Talbert Aulds Scholarship; Megan Steele, Michael Tacheeni Scott Endowed Scholarship; Colleen Villamin, Regina R. and Alfonso J. Mercatante Memorial Scholarship; and Lisa Wagner, SON Alumni Assoc. Fund

Lisa Wagner

Congratuations to Ms. Lisa Wagner on the successful defense of her dissertation titled Planting Seeds: A Naturalistic Inquiry into the Perceptions and Experiences of WIC Peer Counselors as they Interact with Mothers Making their Infant Feeding Decisions.

Dr. Cheyenne Martin

Presented the Sr. Charles Marie Endowed Lecture (virtually) at Incarnate Word University, San Antonio titled Profiles in Courage: An Exploration of Nurses and Physicians Engaged in Resistance Efforts in Europe During Nazi Occupation. This special lecture was given after evacuation from Tropical Storm Beta and severe rainstorms in Wharton.

Dr. Virginia Chandlee

Congratuations on the successfull defense of her dissertation titled, An Exploratory Study of Pediatric Oncology Nurses' Perceptions of and Advocacy Responses to Ethical Issues in Securing Informed Consent in Adolescent and Young Adult Patients..