Note: The following is part of an occasional series highlighting projects supported by faculty development grants funded through the Office of the Provost.
Two mobile health clinics that Samford University's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing hosted for children and adults with developmental disabilities each turned into a win-win for all concerned.
The Miracle League participants who attended benefitted from health screenings and information that can mean a better quality of life.
The providers, including Samford nursing faculty and students, gained a better knowledge of how to care for an often-vulnerable patient population.
The clinics, scheduled around activities at Miracle League parks in Moody, Ala., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2010, offered free screenings, primary care services and referrals, as well as education regarding proper nutrition, exercise and sun protection. Miracle League fields offer opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in various sports.
The mobile health project was designed to combat barriers to care that individuals with developmental disabilities in underserved areas often face, such as transportation, and to teach others how to care for that special patient population, according to Samford nursing professor Dr. Jill Cunningham, a director of the project.
"While individuals with developmental disabilities are at risk for the same ailments and conditions as the general population, they often are at risk for secondary conditions that can adversely affect their health and quality of life," explains Dr. Cunningham.
A $3,000 Samford Faculty Development Grant was one of several funding sources used by Cunningham and project co-leaders Dr. Margaret Findlay and Dr. Arlene N. Hayne, also of the nursing faculty.
The faculty development grant monies were used to purchase supplies that were necessary to carry out the clinics, including blood pressure cuffs, laboratory supplies, gloves, needles, syringes, alcohol wipes and patient education materials.
Since 2001, more than 160 faculty development grants totaling some $325,000 have been approved by the Samford Faculty Senate Academic Affairs committee.
From the outset, the nursing project leaders sought positive outcomes in the areas of teaching, scholarly activity and service. They were pleased with the results.
The teaching component reached not only nursing students, but Samford healthcare students from pharmacy and exercise science fields. Veteran professionals such as nurse practitioners, registered nurses and a medical doctor also gained from the experience. Professionals outside the Samford sphere were inspired and informed when the project was a featured topic at the annual Mobile Health forum in New Orleans, La., in the fall of 2010.
Although it has been two years since the clinics were held, Dr. Cunningham continues to receive feedback from recent Samford nurses who participated as students in the clinics. Their comments underscore the long-term benefit of the experience:
"I am more comfortable now treating patients with disabilities and special needs."
"It was an eye opening experience to learn about the health disparities that exist in our surrounding communities."
"Because of this experience, I have a better understanding of how to interact with patients with special needs."
"With the increased rates of obesity and high blood pressure that was assessed in these patients, I will now be more focused on health promotion and disease prevention in this population."
Cunningham, who has a daughter with developmental disabilities, is pleased that the project was a benefit to both receivers and providers of the services. Because healthcare is often difficult to access for individuals with disabilities, Cunningham is also pleased that the nurse practitioner students involved in the project will be more likely to include patients with disabilities in their future practice.
"We have been asked to return to both parks anytime to provide more health screenings and health education. The park leaders tell us that families were very appreciative that we came out to help. They are asking when we will be back," said Cunningham.