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Nursing Students Participate in Community-Based Care Coordination Program for Older Adults

Nursing Students Participate in Community-Based 
Care Coordination Program for Older Adults

The VCU School of Nursing is leading a community-based care coordination program that has become an interdisciplinary training ground for future nurses and a national model for community engagement.

The Richmond Health and Wellness Program (RHWP) brings together students from the VCU Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Medicine, Social Work and the Department of Psychology, to provide integrated care to residents in apartment buildings that are designated for older adults and those with disabilities. The program serves low-income older adults who have limited access to care or who need coordinated care. The goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents in their homes.

Through a weekly on-site clinic, VCU's interprofessional teams, overseen by licensed clinical faculty, work with residents to address high blood pressure, diabetes and other health conditions, as well as offer health promotion, medication management and primary care coordination as needed.

"Students are able to experience team-based learning while gaining experience interacting with older adults in their homes," said Pam Parsons, Ph.D., GNP, clinical associate professor in the VCU School of Nursing and RWHP project manager. "Many of these adults have issues with low-health literacy, or are unable to navigate to obtain medications, transportation or the urgent care services that they need in order to remain independent in their home settings. The RHWP's services help train the future health care work force while improving the quality life of our communities' older adults."

The VCU Council Center for Community Engagement provided internal funding that originally supported the program. In July 2013, the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded a three-year, 1.5-million grant to the School of Nursing to expand and improve the program. Initially based at Dominion Place, a Richmond senior living facility, the RHWP has already expanded to two additional apartment buildings in the city and will provide services to a total of five buildings by later this year.

More than 160 nursing students have gained hands-on patient care experience in the Richmond Health and Wellness Program since its inception.

"What’s most unique about this program is that students get to see residents within their home setting, while also having the opportunity to watch professionals across the spectrum of health care work together,” said Parsons, who is also director for practice and community engagement at the School of Nursing.  “We are so excited about the RHWP for Older Adults, as it is aligned with VCU’s strategic plan and the Center, bringing services into the community and providing opportunity for students to develop leadership and clinical skills within interprofessional team settings."

In addition to Parsons, School of Nursing faculty involved in the RHWP include Fay Parpart, M.S., RN, ANP-BC, AACRN, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing; and Lana Sargent, M.S.N., RN, FNP-C, GNP-BC, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems.  

Sargent said the program is so empowering to nursing students, as it promotes a leadership role in helping to coordinate patient care through curriculum and practice.
 “It teaches them that they can be leaders within a health care team structure,” she said.

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