College of Nursing to unveil mobile health unit for rural health, education

The UTHSC Mobile Nursing Health Unit will serve rural populations in Lake County and Lauderdale County, where Diana Dedmon, DNP, FNP-BC, the principal investigator of the grant that funds the unit, grew up and worked as a nurse practitioner.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Nursing will present a mobile health unit dedicated to expanding access to health care in rural Tennessee at 11:30 a.m., May 11, on the Memphis campus.

The groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremony for the UTHSC Nursing Mobile Health Unit (MHU) will be held in the parking lot next to UTHSC’s Hyman Administration Building at 62 S. Dunlap St.

Funded through a four-year, $3.9 million grant to the UTHSC College of Nursing from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the unit will be staffed and managed by the college. The department will increase access to health care in Lake and Lauderdale counties and allow the college to integrate rural health education into its undergraduate and graduate programs. HRSA designates both counties as underserved.

The kickoff event, which takes place during National Nurses Week, will include remarks from UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley, PhD, College of Nursing Dean Wendy Lykes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-BC, FAANP , Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines, Lake County Mayor Danny Cook , and a nursing student. Nursing students at UTHSC will also be giving tours of the unit.

“Lake and Lauderdale counties have a population that has poorer health outcomes because of difficulty accessing care,” said Assistant Professor Diana Dedmon, DNP, FNP-BC, who is the principal investigator of the grant. “The College of Nursing is excited to work with community leaders and health care providers in these two communities to address these access gaps while introducing students to how rewarding it can be to serve the rural and underserved communities served.” Dr. Dedmon grew up in Lauderdale County and worked there as a nurse practitioner.

The mobile health unit is 24 feet long and 8 feet wide with 117 square feet of clinical space, including a check-in area and one exam room. Both areas will have telemedicine equipment and computer stations. The exam room will also have an exam table and clinical assessment equipment. Once operational, the unit will have two staff members — one advanced practice nurse and one medical assistant or licensed practical nurse. Clinical services provided at the unit will include primary care, mental health care, chronic disease management, prenatal care and HIV care.

Lake and Lauderdale counties have the second and 13th highest poverty rates, respectively, among Tennessee’s 95 counties, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s 2021 Tennessee Report. Lake County has the highest incidence of low birth weight and smoking. Lauderdale County has the second highest rate of adult diabetes and obesity and the fourth highest rate of adult smoking. Life expectancy in both counties is below the state and national averages.

“I am so proud of our team here at the College of Nursing for their dedication to these communities,” said Dean Lykes. “This is what we do in nursing. We go where we are needed and to those who need us. This is an opportunity for us to partner with the communities in these two counties to improve the health of their citizens and educate students in a rural setting in the hope that they will choose to practice where access is limited and their expertise is so needed .”

Lake District Mayor Danny Cook said: “We are very excited about the opportunity to have a mobile health unit here. The main thing we want is for our people in Lake County to have the best opportunity to live happy and healthy lives.”

Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines Jr. said nearly 5,000 of his county’s citizens live in poverty and lack adequate access to health care. “The impact of a mobile health unit for Lauderdale County will be tremendous for the citizens of Lauderdale County. MHU will provide community members with free access to appropriate health care in our community. Many of those affected may not have transportation, and MHU will remove that burden by providing the resources to those in need.

Another major goal of the HRSA grant and the mobile health unit is to expand the nursing workforce and increase the cultural competence of nurses serving patients in rural areas. Students in the College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program will have the opportunity to earn microcredits in selected concepts that prepare nursing graduates to improve health equity, access and outcomes for vulnerable populations.

A Rural Scholars Program will be implemented in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program for the following concentrations: Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse Midwife. Students in this program will complete up to 50% of their clinical hours in a mobile health unit or rural health clinic and will focus their DNP research project on a rural community health challenge.

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