$100,000 Grant Allows National Expansion In Expert Care of Sickle Cell Patients

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Members of the Sickle Cell International Expert Nursing Curriculum Committee work together to develop a simulation to use in educating nurses who participate in the Sickle Cell Boot Camp to Promote Nursing Excellence.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Nursing and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have received a $100,000 grant to expand an innovative education program for nurses who care for people with sickle cell disease (SCD) – an inherited illness that affects 100,000 people nationwide.

The grant from Global Blood Therapeutics, Inc. (GBT) allows the researchers to increase the impact of the Sickle Cell Boot Camp to Promote Nursing Excellence that was held in June at UTHSC. Funded through an initial $50,000 grant from GBT, the first boot camp brought 15 nurses to the UTHSC campus to learn best practices to treat sickle cell patients. The expanded program will incorporate a train-the-trainer model allowing for expansion of the program.

The nursing education program is a collaboration between the UTHSC College of Nursing, St. Jude, and the International Association of Sickle Cell Nurses and Professional Associates (IASCNAPA).

“This program has the potential to impact the care of sickle cell patients nationally and globally,” said Sara Day, PhD, RN, FAAN, assistant dean for Community and Global Partnerships in the UTHSC College of Nursing.

The new grant will enable the researchers to adapt the curriculum to a train-the-trainer model that will be implemented throughout a five-day boot camp scheduled April 17-21, 2023 at the UTHSC College of Nursing. The grant will also fund the development and production of teaching materials for trainers. Only 20 students will be accepted for the April boot camp, which is free to participants. The application deadline is Feb. 1, 2023, and application resources can be found at uthsc.edu/scdnursebootcamp.

Early detection of life-threatening SCD complications, including acute chest syndrome, sepsis, stroke, and multiorgan failure, is key to improving the rate of mortality from the disease.  As a frontline worker, the nurse is responsible for ongoing assessment of patients and detection of any changes in clinical status, Dr. Day said.

“Without SCD knowledge and clinical assessment skills, these symptoms are often not detected at a stage when medical interventions can prevent mortality,” Dr. Day said. “With the lack of education and training in nursing schools and hospitals, the patient with SCD is very vulnerable to untoward consequences.”

Yvonne Carroll, director of patient services in the Department of Hematology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is co-principal investigator of the grant. “The Nursing Bootcamp will teach nurses to provide culturally sensitive, evidence-based care to people with SCD and will help standardize nursing treatment for people with SCD,” she said.

Assistant Professor Artangela Henry, DNP, AGACNP-BC, FNP-C, is also a co-principal investigator on the grant. “When we think of chronic disease management, as health care providers, we must incorporate a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to care. This should be no different when managing sickle cell disease,” she said. “This train-the-trainer model will provide an opportunity to expand our reach of knowledgeable nurses caring for those living with sickle cell disease. The bootcamp will aid in developing Sickle Cell Disease Champions across the nation.”

The program’s goal is to become self-sustaining by 2024. The long-range strategic plan for the program is to apply for sickle cell nursing credentialing with the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC), which is the foremost nursing credentialing organization in the world. While there are currently 183 nursing certifications, SCD is not one of those certifications.

GBT is a biopharmaceutical company founded in 2011 to develop and deliver treatments for SCD, a lifelong, inherited blood disorder that affects hemoglobin, a protein carried by red blood cells that delivers oxygen to tissues and organs throughout the body. GBT was recently acquired by Pfizer, Inc.