Nurse-Led Mobile Health Unit Will Bring ‘CARE’ Where It’s Needed Most

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10/31/2022

Photo: Alex Dolce

Fau.edu

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing have received a four year, $3.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a nurse-led mobile health unit to create healthier populations in rural and medically underserved regions.

Mobile health units have increased in number in an effort to reduce barriers to health care and provide a variety of services ranging from preventive to curative. Although mobile health units are typically thought of as a motor vehicle that houses equipment to provide clinical services, the Academy of Science has called for new strategies for health care delivery and services and for innovative approaches for education.

FAU’s project, “Caring-based Community & Academic Relationships for Excellence (CARE): Nurse-led Mobile Health Unit,” is designed to increase health care access to rural and vulnerable populations through mobile health units staffed by an interprofessional team of practitioners. The nurse-led mobile health unit will provide technology assisted, culturally aligned, evidence-based health promotion, disease prevention, primary and mental health care services in underserved communities.

The project targets underserved populations of Belle Glade and West Palm Beach including families with children, veterans, homeless persons, women and children sheltering from domestic violence, and young persons who have aged out of the foster care system, which represent the populations at highest risk for health disparities and low literacy.

FAU’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing will work jointly with its nurse-led FAU/Northwest Community Health Alliance Community Health Center (FAU/NCHA Community Health Center) to implement this new approach to bring these services where they are needed the most. The FAU/NCHA Community Health Center is designated by HRSA as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike. The purpose of FQHCs is to serve communities that may have financial disadvantages, language barriers, geographic barriers, or other specific needs. FAU nursing faculty will direct undergraduate and graduate nursing students who will deliver a program of disease prevention, health promotion, primary care and mental health services.

Other community partners for the project include West Palm Beach Veteran Affairs Medical Center/Fresh Truck, The Salvation Army Palm Beach County, Vita Nova, YWCA Palm Beach County, and the Glades Area Ministerial Association. 

The grant project director is Beth King, Ph.D., an associate professor and coordinator of the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner concentration at the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. Karethy Edwards, Dr.PH, professor and associate dean for academic programs and executive director of the FAU/NCHA Community Health Center, will serve as the director of clinical services of the mobile health unit. Karen Chambers, DNP, an assistant professor and family nurse practitioner, will serve as project coordinator/clinical.

“With HRSA priorities of mental health and reproductive health, family planning and teen pregnancy initiatives, our innovative educational caring-based community academic relationship project, which we refer to as the ‘CARE Model,’ has the ultimate aim of creating healthier populations in rural and medically underserved populations,” said King. “We are excited to work with our outstanding community partners to fulfill HRSA’s goal to increase and strengthen a diverse and culturally competent nursing workforce to address health care disparities in these communities.”

The project team will recruit, financially support and educate Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and BSN-DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) advance practice students from varied backgrounds to care for rural and medically underserved communities. FAU will work with its new and current community partners for nursing student academic service learning projects, longitudinal clinical experiences through the mobile health unit and mentorship to address health equity.

Undergraduate and graduate students in the program will provide primary care and mental health services while being precepted by board-certified psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, family nurse practitioners or adult gerontology nurse practitioners using collaborating physicians as needed, through telehealth. Undergraduate nursing students will be directed by the RN coordinator in the mobile health unit, demonstrating evidence-based practice and culturally aligned care.  

“Rather than expecting our medically underserved patients to come to our FAU/NCHA Community Health Center for their health care needs, with this important HRSA grant, we will now be able to go to them,” said Safiya George, Ph.D., dean, FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. “Importantly, by bringing our mobile health unit to our region’s rural and underserved communities, our CARE nursing students will have the opportunity to experience firsthand the impact of the social determinants of health.”

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