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College of Nursing Awarded $1.5 Million Grant to Support Simulation in Patient Care for Nursing Students

A standardized patient interacts with nursing faculty and students during a simulation for a College of Nursing program.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing has received a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant that will help students identify and address issues that lead to patients’ health problems. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant is called “Training and Education to Advance Critical Health Equity Readiness Using Simulation,” or TEACH US.

Assistant Professor Christie Manasco, PhD, is the project director for the grant. “This will help future nurses be more proactive in addressing the root causes of patients’ health problems. If we can help improve those conditions that are impacting their health, then they will not have to seek care for the same problem over and over again,” she said. “I want my students to move upstream to where they are addressing the root causes of health problems, so that there will be fewer needs downstream.”

The grant will support simulation exercises that help students role play situations in which the social determinants of health contribute to poor health outcomes. The simulations will use a standardized patient – a person acting the role of a patient. The social determinants of health are conditions that can affect health and quality of life outcomes. These include economic security, health care access and quality, education access and quality, social and community context, and the neighborhood environment.

Dr. Christie Manasco

For example, if a patient has high blood pressure and takes prescribed medication but doesn’t have access to healthy food, the nurse needs to know that in order to connect the patient with the needed resources, Dr. Manasco said. The grant’s areas of focus include mental health, maternal and child health, homelessness, survivors of domestic abuse, HIV/AIDS, aging populations, stroke, heart disease, and obesity.

The first year of the grant will involve planning how the simulations will be integrated into the undergraduate and graduate curricula, Dr. Manasco said. The second year will involve a phased rollout of the simulations, and the third year will involve the full integration of the simulations into the curriculum.

The TEACH US grant will train more than 250 undergraduate and graduate nursing students annually using simulations. Co-investigators on the grant include Assistant Professor Lisa Beasley, DNP; Assistant Professor Alise Farrell, PhD; Assistant Professor Jamila Smith-Young, DNP; Professor Bobby Bellflower, DNSc; Associate Professor Randy Johnson, PhD; and Assistant Professor Gennifer Baker, DNP, from UT Southern.

“In 2021, 14% of Tennesseans had three or more chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that lead to poor overall health. In the nation as a whole, less than 10% of people have three or more chronic health conditions,” said College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, FAANP, FAAN. “Many of these health problems are connected to behaviors that are influenced by the social determinants of health. This grant can help improve the health of Tennesseans by preparing future nurses to identify these issues and intervene to promote better health outcomes.”

UTHSC is home to the Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation (CHIPS) – a 45,000-square-foot stand-alone building for health care simulation and interprofessional education. The state-of-the-art facility is designed to meet the simulation needs of all UTHSC students, residents, professional staff, and clinical partners.