Empowering Nurses to Partner in the Care of Children with Developmental Disabilities

Monday, 9 November 2015

Angela Chlebowski, BSN, RN, EFM-RNC
Sally O'Toole Gerard, DNP, MSN, BSN, RN, CNL
School of Nursing, Fairfield Univeristy, Fairfield, CT, USA

Empowering Nurses to Partner in the care of Children with Developmental Disabilities

The CDC and HRSA have published that the prevalence of Developmental/Intellectual Disabilities has increased by 17.1 % in nearly 10 years, calculating that about 1.8 million children currently live with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities in the United States.  During a nurse’s careers they will come into contact with infants, children, adults, and families that are affected by intellectual/developmental disabilities throughout the lifespan.  Caring for such a specialized community can be challenging for the healthcare provider.   Are nursing students in an undergraduate and graduate degree programs being exposed to proper training and enrichment programs? Numerous studies have looked at this question.  The results from many studies suggest that nursing students at both the undergraduate and graduate level are not receiving the education and clinical experiences needed in working with this specialized population.  Limited disability curricula can be attributed to lack of faculty expertise and limited time in an already packed curriculum.  However this has attributed to negative attitudes by nursing students and providers of individuals with disabilities.  Through the revision of a generic Master’s of Nursing Leadership Curriculum at Fairfield University there is a comprehensive and interprofessional opportunity for nursing graduate students who have a passion for this specialty area.  This clinical/educational experience is known as LEND (Leadership, Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities).  LEND programs are a nationwide initiative for graduate and post graduate students to take part in a training program to develop skills in advocacy/policy, clinical, research, and teaching; with the goal of taking on a leadership role in a career specialized in children and families with disabilities and special healthcare needs.  The program is a unique opportunity for nursing students to work in a multidisplinary setting for the common goal of helping and assisting children and families with disabilities and special healthcare needs.    In many instances graduate nursing students are inhibited from participating in rich academic experiences due to restrictive curricular plans.  This poster/presentation will describe the value of the multi-dimensional LEND program for graduate nursing students and a description of dissemination of this specialized knowledge to upgrade undergraduate and graduate curriculum.