Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, Collaborate to offer Clinical COVID-19 Symposium

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The Colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy came together to host the UTHSC Coronavirus Online Symposium: Clinical Care, Deans Marie-Chisholm-Burns (left) and Wendy Likes welcomed participants and started discussions.

More than 500 people registered for the UTHSC Coronavirus Online Symposium: Clinical Care, presented via Zoom Sept. 15 by the Colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The program sought to lay out best practices and the most up-to-date research for practitioners caring for patients who have COVID-19.

“We are so pleased that we could offer practical information on COVID-19 to our fellow health care practitioners at a time when these resources are vital to improving the health of our community,” said College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP. “The speakers were fabulous, and the symposium is recorded, so anyone can watch for free to gain this insightful information.”

Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, FCCP, FASHP, FAST, dean and UTHSC Distinguished Professor in the College of Pharmacy, said, “It is our hope that by providing quality education about the pandemic and more importantly how we can take proper safety measures and provide excellent patient care, we will help not only our community but the communities of others, near and far.” Dr. Chisholm-Burns also has an appointment in the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine.

The first COVID-19 case was detected in Shelby County March 8. By Sept. 15, 29,330 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases had been documented in the county, and the disease had caused 424 deaths, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

Janet Mulroy, DNP, ACNP, CCNS, CCRN, an acute care nurse practitioner and UTHSC College of Nursing alumna who practices with Threlkeld, Threlkeld and Omer Infectious Disease Associates, described management of low-acuity and high-acuity COVID-19 patients at the symposium.

In her experience, about 81 percent of patients experience mild symptoms of COVID-19 that can be managed at home. About 14 percent have more severe symptoms and are admitted to the hospital, and about five percent experience critical illness and respiratory failure.

“Our job in the acute-care environment is to assist the patient in riding out the storm,” she said. “My personal experience is that they tend to linger for weeks, especially those with comorbidities.” Rehabilitation can also be very challenging for the acutely ill patient, she said.

Mike Veve, PharmD, MPH, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, reminded participants that no FDA-approved drug exists for treatment or prevention of COVID-19, so most of the drugs currently being used in treatment are being drugs that have been repurposed.

Dr. Veve offered detailed overviews of major drug trials and recommended that practitioners look at randomized, controlled trials that compare two agents when evaluating a medication. The medication that has shown the most direct impact thus far is a corticosteroid, dexamethasone, according to the research, he said. Neither Dr. Veve nor Dr. Mulroy recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine.

Dr. Veve also emphasized how important safe vaccine development is. He said several vaccine manufacturers have stated they will not accept fast-tracking of the vaccine because of the need for Phase 3 trials, which evaluate the overall risks and benefits of the drugs.

College of Nursing alumna and Associate Professor Alisa Haushalter, DNP, RN, who is the director of the Shelby County Health Department, described the impact of public policy in the response to COVID-19. One example is the mask mandate for Shelby County. Before the mandate, research showed that about 53 percent of Shelby County residents were masking appropriately, she said. However, since the mandate, about 95 percent are masking correctly, and COVID-19 cases have been declining.

College of Pharmacy scientific writer Jenny Johnson, PhD, discussed the importance of COVID-19 testing and the different types of tests that are available. “Until we are able to identify some of the 40 percent who get infected without showing symptoms, we don’t have a way to control the virus,” she said.

She emphasized the importance of getting an influenza vaccination, as flu season approaches. “We won’t want to understand what the combination of flu and COVID can do to someone’s lungs,” Dr. Johnson said. “We cannot vaccinate for COVID yet, so we should all vaccinate for flu.”

A recording of the symposium is available on the event website.