The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing has received a $364,502 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will allow a specialized education outreach to health care professionals in the Mid-South Delta region to improve care for patients with sickle cell disease.
The college will work in collaboration with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Baptist Memorial Health Care to reach 240 health care professionals over the next two years, including health care providers of both primary and emergency care. The principal investigator for the grant is Sara Day, PhD, RN, FAAN, assistant dean for Community and Global Partnerships at the College of Nursing. Co-investigators are Yvonne M. Carroll, RN, JD, director of patient services in the Department of Hematology at St. Jude; Assistant Professor Keesha Roach, PhD, RN, at the College of Nursing; and Brooke Clemons, MSN, RN, a PhD student in nursing science at UTHSC.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., including 2,000 in the Mid-South. Among newborn births screened, Mississippi has the second highest incidence of sickle cell disease among infants in the U.S. People of African descent make up 90% of the population with sickle cell disease in the U.S. It also affects people of Hispanic, South Asian, Southern European, and Middle Eastern ancestry.
“This grant is designed to help eliminate the health disparities we see for people with sickle cell disease and to improve the quality of care they receive,” Dr. Day said.
The USDA grant has three primary objectives: to provide a primary care provider conference on comprehensive sickle cell disease management, to provide workshops on emergency management of sickle cell disease complications for Baptist hospitals in the Delta region, and to support the Sickle Cell Boot Camp to Promote Nursing Excellence – a collaboration of the UTHSC College of Nursing, the Department of Hematology at St. Jude, and the International Association of Sickle Cell Nurses and Professional Associates (IASCNAPA).
The Sickle Cell Boot Camp began at the UTHSC College of Nursing in 2022, and the third boot camp will be held Oct. 30–Nov. 3. About 35 nurses from across the U.S. and around the world will come to Memphis for the one-week course. Education about the disease in nursing schools is limited. The Sickle Cell Boot Camp was created to address that gap.
Carroll said, “Sickle cell is a disease of comorbidities, and health care professionals must have a high level of disease-specific knowledge to care for people with sickle cell disease.”
Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to lose their normal disc shape and become sickle-shaped and rigid. These sickle-shaped cells adhere to vascular walls and impede blood flow and oxygenation. This causes intense pain and life-threatening complications that affect multiple organ systems. People living with the disease often have chronic kidney disease, stroke, and liver and lung complications.
The life span of those with the most severe form of sickle cell disease is on average 30 years shorter than for the general population in the U.S. Early detection of life-threatening sickle cell disease complications is key to improving the rate of mortality. The outreach to emergency department workers and the SCD nursing boot camp are vital ways to provide early intervention when SCD patients are suffering life-threatening symptoms.