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College of Nursing’s Rural Outreach Making Impact

Celecia Osborne, BSN, RN, a registered nurse in Nursing Research Programs, is integral to the outreach efforts to rural and underserved communities. She is pictured here (third from left) with students and faculty at a recent outreach event.

Celecia Osborne, BSN, RN, has worn many hats during her career, including certified nursing assistant, health coach, and high school Spanish teacher. Her role in the rural outreach efforts of University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing allows her to use all her experience to reach underserved communities.

“What’s always been on my heart is that any knowledge I have, I want to make sure others have access to it,” she said.

A resident of Three-Way, Tennessee, near Jackson, Osborne joined the college as a part-time staff member through a grant that supported COVID vaccine education and vaccination efforts in six West Tennessee counties: Dyer, Lake, Tipton, Lauderdale, Fayette, and underserved parts of Shelby County. The $377,000 grant was from the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD). Osborne’s work with the college has continued through a sub-award to the College of Nursing from the College of Medicine for a Centers for Disease Control grant.

Osborne worked with Assistant Professor Christie Manasco, PhD, RN, CNE, to make connections in rural communities throughout West Tennessee. Osborne has become the point person for the health fairs and activities offered by the college’s faculty and students over the last two years. During that time, college faculty members and students have been involved in more than 200 events – many of them at senior centers. They have interacted with more than 1,000 people annually in rural and underserved communities. In addition to providing health education, they offer recreation such as bingo games and craft projects.

“Celecia has been an integral part of our team for a couple of years now. Fortunately, she has agreed to stay onboard working as part of the mobile health unit program once the College of Medicine sub-award is over,” said Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Affairs Diana Dedmon, DNP, FNP-BC, the principal investigator on the $3.98 million Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant to fund the Nursing Mobile Health Unit. The mobile unit serves Lake and Lauderdale counties.

A BSN student takes the blood pressure of a resident at City View apartments.

A major goal of the HRSA grant is to expand the nursing workforce in rural and underserved areas through nursing education. Students in the college’s Rural Health Medallion program participate in outreach activities to earn hours toward their Rural and Underserved Nurse designation, which has eight components including health literacy, cultural sensitivity and humility, and health policy. Students may complete up to two credentials per semester, earning $500 per credential to use toward their tuition. Fifty-one students are currently in the program, and two have completed it.

Osborne enjoys seeing the students grow through these outreach experiences. “It is so refreshing. They ask great questions and are eager to participate,” she said. “It’s incredible to watch them blossom.”

Taylor Grey is a student in the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and has attended 12 rural health events so far.

“It has been eye-opening. As someone interested in shaping state-level policy, these experiences are invaluable. They bring everything to life. Concepts aren’t just theories anymore when you witness operational and interpersonal dynamics firsthand,” she said. “Celecia is warm, engaging, and very naturally connects with the community. She goes the extra mile to make sure the activities are truly impactful.”

Osborne, who received a volunteer faculty appointment this year, noted that both students and residents benefit from the education offered through rural outreach efforts.

“This experience gives the students a different perspective than they get in hospitals or in the classrooms,” she said. “For students who will practice in hospitals, this gives them a chance to see what kind of resources are available for patients who go home to rural settings and to realize what they may or may not have access to in regard to health care needs.”