Faculty from Blinn College’s Allied Health Division at the Texas A&M Health Science Center convened recently for the 9th Annual Innovations in Health Science Education conference at the J.J. Pickle Research Center in Austin. The conference was part of a research project organized by Dr. Mary O’Keefe from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Blinn Nursing Instructors Jane Stowell and Mary Pihlak met with representatives from the Austin, Arlington and Galveston branches of the University of Texas System to collaborate and present the results of recent court visitation program research.
“We were asked to participate in a pilot project,” Stowell said. “Dr. O’Keefe is a lawyer as well as a PhD nurse, and she found that there are over 19,800 Wards of the Court in Texas (meaning individuals placed under Guardianship due to the lack of ability to take care of themselves mentally, physically or financially). Certain legal jurisdictions in the state require a court visitor program, in which a designated person from the court visits guardians and wards on an annual basis to ensure the ward is being cared for appropriately. These court visitors then report their findings back to the court.”
Blinn’s innovative approach involved providing nurses, as trained observers and evaluators of health, to make assessments of overall care and well-being during mandatory visits.
Students in Mental Health Nursing Clinical assessed 43 wards in Fall 2011 as part of their course assignment.
“The outcome was very positive,” Stowell said. “This was designed as an interdisciplinary event, and the trend in healthcare education is interdisciplinary learning and teaching.”
The Blinn College Health Science Center routinely practices interdisciplinary education through simulations.
“One simulation features a trauma patient who is assessed by the EMTs, then brought to the emergency room, where students fill the role of ER nurses,” Stowell said. “The scenario is such that the patient needs an X-Ray, which is conducted by Blinn’s Radiologic Technology students.”
Pihlak explained that the difference between routine simulations and the court visitor program was a matter of collaboration with a court rather than another healthcare provider.
“The students assessed the physical, emotional and mental condition of the Ward and prepared a report for submittal to a judge,” Pihlak said. “The judge reviewed the reports and then met with the students afterward.”
Stowell said the students found value in the experience.
“This was unique in the interdisciplinary experience,” Stowell said. “When students met with the judge, they explained Wards’ health needs and offered health suggestions.”
Both Pihlak and Stowell attribute Blinn College’s regional prominence in health education to staying current in the field and finding new ways to collaborate outside traditional models.
“I like to partner with other institutions,” Pihlak said. “And there are several others who are interested in collaborating.”
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