Alex Azar, U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, asked the Collaborative to Advance Health Services at UMKC to create training modules for first responders in Colombia to help Venezuelan refugees. This will help Venezuelans fleeing that nation’s ongoing economic crisis to get the mental-health assistance they need. The Collaborative oversees numerous federal grants and is home to several national-based centers that implement evidence-based clinical practices into substance use and mental health treatment.
“We felt compelled and passionate to do this,” said Laurie Krom, program director of the Collaborative. “We wanted to help in any way we could.”
“I have family members who live in the area so I know how difficult the situation is,” said team member Susan Garrett, assistant teaching professor at the School of Nursing and Health Studies, who has an aunt who worked for the Honduran embassy in Venezuela. “People are leaving their homes with only the clothes on their backs to walk to Colombia. We can’t even imagine what people are going through.”
A UMKC RN-BSN student employed in a Kansas City hospital, a UMKC RN-BSN student employed in a rural Kansas hospital, and a UMKC RN-BSN student employed in rural Missouri work as a collaborative team to develop education materials for a downtown Kansas City hospital.
This is just one example of student peer connections and extraordinary student accomplishments that have become a hallmark of UMKC’s RN-BSN program over the decades. The program enables ADN registered nurses throughout the U.S. to earn their BSN degree, which can lead to expanded career and graduate academic opportunities.
For Program Director Anita Skarbek, PhD, RN, the faculty-to-student and student-to-student collaborative nature of the program is a driving force that enhances student-learning outcomes regarding real-life patient health care needs and issues. “Our RN-BSN program strives to foster student connectedness, and not only while students are in our program,” said Skarbek. “We want them to continue these professional relationships well beyond graduation.”
Although UMKC’s national RN-BSN program is completely online, students have ample opportunity to interact with one another and faculty through weekly class assignments, as well as innovative clinical practice experiences. Since the students are all registered nurses, faculty encourage students to bring their individual professional perspectives and experiences as urban, suburban or rural nurses to the work they do throughout the program.
According to Skarbek, integrating personal professional perspectives and experiential knowledge is beneficial to all the students in the program, and especially to nurses working in a rural setting, says Skarbek since as our students have discovered, many rural institutions lack having access to resources that are often afforded to larger, urban-serving institutions. And while UMKC prides itself in serving as a student-centered urban university, the online nature of the RN-BSN program allows the school to reach beyond. For example, one-third of the students enrolled in the program either work and/or live in rural communities.
Acquiring professional role development through my RN-BSN studies was a critical component to RN-BSN alumnus Kimberly Slaughter, who works in Cameron, Missouri. “I wanted to bring that knowledge-based learning back to my rural community because the classes make you evaluate your own hospital’s policies and procedures” said Slaughter. “The classwork opens your eyes and makes you ask, “Are we doing the most for our patients?”
The RN-BSN program has a long history of out-reaching to rural nurses. In 2010, the program was one of three universities in the nation to be awarded a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop UMKC’s RN-BSN Rural Nursing Initiative. Skarbek says that is how the school showcased the program’s innovative technology that enables shared learning opportunities to rural students. The program was also awarded a $345,000 Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 2016-2017, which supported rural nursing outreach, as well.
Skarbek also views peer mentoring as an important aspect of the program – one that serves a critical need for the nursing profession. “Our faculty encourage students to answer each other’s questions through the weekly classroom based discussion-board forums and through peer-review processes of assignment submissions. Peer discussion provides opportunities to students to not only engage and learn from one another and form lasting relationships, but also helps students to develop mastery regarding the topic under discussion.”
For alumnus Gary Hicks, a RN working in a Kansas City-area hospital, “Peer discussions and peer review help develop a kinship among classmates, while offering a glimpse into how other hospitals address patient care-delivery challenges. All hospitals, for example, strive to eliminate catheter-associated infections and central line infections. In one of the RN-BSN classes, students reviewed case studies on these topics and critically analyzed research studies to reflect on and evaluate existing best practices to address these issues. While I was discussing these infection issues with one of my classmates who was working at a rural hospital in Kansas, I discovered that his hospital had implemented different safety interventions that I was able to take back to my own hospital as a point of discussion.”
Hicks is also grateful for the team-building experiences acquired through UMKC’s RN-BSN program. “My experience at UMKC has really boosted my confidence in working with my existing team at the hospital. UMKC’s RN-BSN program presents timely, real-life health care issues to the classroom setting, and is a program that I highly recommend to ADN RNs who wish to pursue their BSN degree.”
Why did you choose UMKC?
I selected UMKC because of its reputation for health-care professions. Initially I wanted to go through the six-year medical program when I decided to apply here. However, I realized the patient connection I thrived in was within the field of nursing. Visualizing the way nurses cared for my family members throughout their illnesses created a passion in myself to do the same for others.
UMKC offered me a lot of different opportunities, including scholarships, internships and connections. They helped me develop my leadership skills and land the career I wanted in nursing.
Tell us about your internships.
I completed an internship at the Kansas City VA Hospital in their VALOR Program. It allowed me to understand the socioeconomic struggles our veterans endure throughout their lives. I enjoyed working with this population because I learned a lot about critical care and mental illness. This experience confirmed my career aspirations to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Why do you focus on mental illness?
I think mental health is definitely an aspect that has been ignored and is broken in the community. Growing up seeing people with mental health issues, and understanding how people in the African American community suffer from mental illness, I’ve always wanted to identify the reason behind that. And help people who have it. And not just the people who have mental illness, but the people and their families.
“Ever think about giving up a few hours for CPR training? You never know how important they can be.” That’s what Joy Roberts, interim dean at the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies, learned first-hand this month when her CPR skills were called to action.
Roberts and her daughter were attending a museum fundraiser in Columbia, Missouri. Her daughter, a Mizzou student studying textiles, was among those presenting artwork at the event.
While the crowd viewed the displays and mingled with refreshments, Roberts suddenly heard a loud crash, thinking someone had knocked over a table. But her daughter could see that a man had collapsed. “Mom,” she said, “you need to get over there.”
Roberts described the scene as chaotic, with people literally screaming and unsure of what to do. She reached the man at the same time as another patron was coming to help. That woman said she was an ICU nurse.“Good,” Roberts said, “because I’m an old ICU nurse.”
The UMKC Office of Research Services is pleased to announce that the School of Nursing and Health Studies has been awarded $800,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services offices of Minority Health and Women’s Health. Led by Dr.’s Amanda Grimes and Joseph Lightner, the grant will fund the project “Youth Engagement in Sports: Collaboration to Improve Adolescent Physical Activity and Nutrition (YES Initiative)”
Dr. Grimes describes the background of the project, “The evidence is very clear that American youth suffer from high rates of obesity, inactivity, and poor nutrition (Youth Behavior Risk Surveillance System, 2017). Adolescence seems to be a critical time in a child’s life where behaviors are learned or reinforced. Girls are particularly prone to low rates of physical activity during adolescence.”
This project aims to increase physical activity and consumption of healthy food by implementing an intramural sports program and a weekly nutritious food delivery within middle schools in Kansas City, Missouri, specifically among girls. With sustainability at the core of this project, we have recruited organizations who are experts in delivering each component of the intervention including Kansas City Parks and Rec, the Center for Children’s Healthy Lifestyles & Nutrition of Children’s Mercy Hospital, Truman Medical Center’s Community Health Strategies & Innovation.