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A Healthy Choice
by Greg Russell

The U of M’s Loewenberg School of Nursing has quietly established itself as a nationally recognized program that is producing top leaders in the field of health care.

The cuff is not too tight, not too loose—a mere millimeter in the wrong direction could cause an uncomfortable squeeze and immediate distrust. But the caregiver, Allison Adams, a University of Memphis student finishing up her requirements for a nursing degree, completes the blood pressure exercise to perfection. The patient, several tests later, comes away with a professionally conducted exam. With NFL stars DeAngelo Williams and Reggie Howard just a couple of hundred yards away conducting a youth camp at the Billy J. Murphy Athletic Complex, Allison is proving, also, that she is ready for the big leagues, the professional ranks. Call this her field of dreams, too.

The University’s Loewenberg School of Nursing has become an intricate part of health care in the Mid-South, producing hundreds of nurses who have become stars in their field. These U of M nurses are often introduced to the community via a required senior-level Community Health Care course that provides benefits both ways: the nurses get clinical experience they might not find in a traditional hospital setting while community members, often impoverished, receive top-of-the-line health care services and education for free. It is a win-win situation for all involved and a reason why the Loewenberg School has grown in both prestige and numbers the past decade.

nursing students
Loewenberg School of Nursing students offered a free health fair for school children on the Park Avenue campus in July as part of a Community Health Care course. The nurses administer several health tests such as blood pressure readings to senior citizens, the homeless, war veterans and others in need. Not only do they offer health screenings, they also seek to prevent the disease process through education.
It is community health care courses such as this one that provide a true picture of how important Loewenberg has become to the community. By offering free nursing services at community centers, libraries, senior citizen facilities, clinics that offer assistance to the homeless, and health fairs, such as the one at the U of M football practice fields, Loewenberg is providing essential services even before students graduate. The School, through a course offered by nursing professor Lawrette Axley, even ventures overseas to such places as the Dominican Republic to provide free health care services to needy people.

“The under-insured population benefits from this because they get screenings that they ordinarily would not get on a routine basis,” says clinical instructor Janelle Smalls.

“We visit impoverished populations that have limited access to health care, people who might not get the services they would be getting with a primary physician,” adds Loewenberg professor Gloria Carr. “They get so much out of this nursing service.”

The nurses provide blood pressure readings, screenings for diabetes and other diseases, weight and height exams, and prevention education. They check a patient’s medications to ensure the person is not taking something he or she shouldn’t.

“We focus on prevention and health promotion,” says Smalls. “We teach them how to prevent the disease process so they don’t end up in a hospital.

“With youth, we teach them about exercise and proper diet to prevent them from becoming obese,” Smalls continues. “It has a major impact on the health care industry when we do prevention and health promotion up front.”

“I try to find the students places to go within the community that are truly needy where we can do helpful things,” says course director Joy Hoffman.

“It benefits the students to get out and see what kinds of needs are out in the community and to see the different roles that nursing can play in the community. A lot of our students are very hospital oriented — very bedside oriented — so this shows them a different side of nursing. And a lot of our students are young and sometimes a little sheltered so we take them to places in the community that they didn’t know existed and wouldn’t have gone to without the required course.”

The students often come away from the course feeling as if they have made a difference in someone’s life.

Brittany Forbes spent time working at a residential hospice in Memphis.

“My community experience in hospice nursing was a truly emotionally charged one,” says Forbes. “I witnessed many families from Memphis struggle to provide care for their terminally ill relatives while they themselves were in need of desperate medical, financial and emotional help. I experienced the pure joy and inspiration that we brought to the patients and their families as we provided care.

“Many of the patients were homebound and their families did not have a means of transportation to access needed medical care, so we provided these services to the individuals and other patients in the community,” Forbes says.

Adds student Audra Lewis, who provided care at Crossroads Hospice, “I enjoyed getting to play an active role in the care of the clients. I worked with the doctors, the hospice nurse, the facility nurses and with nurse technicians. I feel we offered the most cost-effective and highest quality care possible for the hospice client.”

Hoffman says the nursing program as a whole continues to expand, which is good news to Memphis-area health care facilities. Memphis is recognized as one of the largest medical centers in the country.

Hoffman is hopeful that a new nursing facility that would also house the School of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, soon comes to fruition.

“Right now our faculty and facilities are spread across campus,” she says. “We have some classes in Newport and some on the other side of campus in the Fogelman building. It is hard to communicate when all of our professors can’t be housed in the same area because of space limitations.

“The program is growing and we are taking in more people. A new facility would allow us to do so much more and serve the community so much better,” Hoffman says.

U of M Nurse Leadership Program will help meet profession’s critical needs

As the nursing shortage in Tennessee and the nation continues to concern leaders of the health care community, the Loewenberg School of Nursing at the University of Memphis is doing its part to develop nursing leaders who can meet that challenge. One of the School's current initiatives is the Executive Master of Science in Nursing (E-MSN) degree program.

The program will be the first of its kind in the United States when it begins this fall, and it promises to become one of the nation's premier master's degree programs for the education and career development of nurse executives. Using as a model nationally recognized master of business administration degree programs, the U of M E-MSN program will offer 37 credit hours over two years on a part-time basis to students, so that they may continue their employment in the nursing profession. The students will be selected by their employers for application to the E-MSN program, based on the employers' determination of their "high performance and high potential."

The majority of the program will be taught online, so nurse leaders can work at times and from places that make it feasible for them to complete the program while remaining in their professional positions. At the beginning and end of each semester, students will attend intensive two-day sessions on campus, where they will be taught by nationally recognized nurse leaders.

The U of M's E-MSN teaching faculty are recognized as some of the most outstanding in the nation. Among them are Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing, Fellows of the American College of Healthcare Executives, leaders in the American Organization of Nursing Executives, a researcher whose work is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nurse CEOs of major hospitals and health care systems, and an American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Commissioner and ANCC Magnet appraisers.

The E-MSN curriculum is unique in that it uses as its foundation the core competencies of the ANCC’s 14 Forces of Magnetism, the American Organization of Nursing Executives (AONE) and the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurses Fellows programs.

The U of M E-MSN program and its innovative curriculum was profiled in the January, February and March 2008 issues of the Journal of Nursing Administration and in the March-April issue of Nursing Economic$. The program was featured at the 41st annual meeting of the American Organization of Nursing Executives in April 2008.

More information about the E-MSN program is available online at http://nursing.memphis.edu or from Dr. Joan Thomas via e-mail at jthomas1@memphis.edu.

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