U.Va. Faculty Members Develop Course to Explore Mental Health in Southwest Virginia

Aug. 12, 2009 — University of Virginia nursing faculty members Diane Boyer and Cathy Campbell are using their Academic Community Engagement Grant to teach students in an undergraduate psychiatric nursing course about pain management and associated depression, substance abuse and addiction.

The course is an expansion of a course required for nursing students. It will be taught in the fall and spring semesters of the upcoming academic year and explore health care in Southwest Virginia.

The Academic Community Engagement course grants are offered annually by the Office of University Community Partnerships, through the Office of the Vice President and Provost, to foster innovative, academically based public service. This year, 12 courses are being funded through this program.

This year, the courses under development are tied to the new Jefferson Public Citizen program, part of "an intentional effort to connect public service to academics, to prepare students for life after college," said Milton J. Adams, vice provost for academic programs. Students applying to the Jefferson Public Citizen program are encouraged to enroll in Academic Community Engagement courses.

A group of fourth-year students in the nursing course, taught by Rebecca Harman, will participate in the expanded clinical component of the psychiatric nursing course. Content will be designed by the Appalachian Partnership for Pain Management, which is headed by Boyer and Campbell, in collaboration with the "Healthy Appalachia" community program at U.Va.'s College at Wise.

The curriculum for the clinical component of the psychiatric nursing course will touch on many of the community health care issues that future nurses will encounter in their careers. The curriculum will incorporate treatment of chronic illness, including organization of health care delivery systems, community linkages and clinical information systems that enhance safe, effective treatment by nurses. The curriculum also will include a focus on the effect of the area's socio-economic and geographical challenges on its residents.

Additional topics will include the impact health care has on culture, access to health care services, accidental overdoses, the use of technology and how pain management can affect the evaluation and treatment of depression, substance abuse and addiction.

Students will participate in clinical rotations in Southwest Virginia in order to work face-to-face with health care providers and patients.

Faculty members, both in Charlottesville and Wise, students and community members will interact and develop professional partnerships, said Boyer and Campbell, who added that they are excited to be able to provide psychiatric nursing students with new ways to look at mental health care beyond the U.Va. Medical Center in Charlottesville.

"Any experience beyond Grounds and engaging in the community is invaluable to the education of our students," Campbell said.

— By Kelsey Schum