Interprofessional Education through Community Service

Monday, 9 November 2015

Denise B. Isibel, MSN, RN, RN
Linda Bennington, PhD, RN
School of Nursing, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA


The Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (VAND) conference is designed to address the essential knowledge requirements of professionals and paraprofessionals who work with vulnerable populations in the Hampton Roads area.  Specifically, the objective of this project is to facilitate a creative learning environment that will provide a foundation for these attendees to take back to their smaller communities as health promotion improved maternal child healthcare with an emphasis on oral healthcare.


Health promotion involves the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health. It not only embraces actions directed at strengthening the skills and capabilities of individuals, but also action directed towards changing social, environmental and economic conditions so as to alleviate their impact on public and individual health (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2007). The measure of a community’s needs can often be determined through the infant mortality rate as it reflects the quality of prenatal and birth care available to both children and mothers and is a critical indicator of the overall health and welfare of a nation.  Virginia’s infant mortality rate is higher than the national average at 6.8/1000 and the highest rate is in Hampton Roads at 9.1/1000 (, 2014a).  Oral healthcare has been identified as one of the top three barriers to health access in Hampton Roads (Hampton Roads Community Health Assessment, 2004)

The World Health Organization asserts that interprofessional education (IPE) of healthcare students is essential to positively impacting population-based health outcomes, disease prevention, social advocacy and elimination of health disparities to include maternal-child health indices (Chavez, 2013). Maternal child health has the greatest impact on the outcomes of adult health by virtue of establishing the potential genetic environment of the developing fetus, which will, in turn, set the stage for a healthy, productive citizenry.  Additionally, IPE affords students with an understanding of the importance of each discipline’s role in meeting a community’s health needs.

This service learning project will address these needs through the development of a faculty facilitated student-led educational forum to be presented at the Spring 2015 Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (VAND) conference. Service learning has been used successfully in both Nursing and Dental Hygiene to increase awareness of health disparities for vulnerable populations (Bentley & Ellison, 2005). 

The Project

This innovative project supports the development of a new service learning opportunity with a community partner: Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Our goal is to connect interdisciplinary teams of students from four departments (Dental Hygiene, Nursing, Environmental Health, and Public Health) within the College of Health Sciences to develop this educational forum by (1) students will assess basic learning needs within existing programs in the Hampton Roads area.  For example, Resource Mothers and Loving Steps are two programs that train lay healthcare workers to mentor pregnant teens through a community driven initiative to not only eliminate significant disparities in perinatal health experienced by African-American women and their families but to prevent infant mortality and low weight births within a population that has this risk, (2) students will meet  and collaborate with VAND representatives to  assess their basic learning needs based on their input to develop an educational program that is specifically designed and packaged for use in their field of training.  (3) students will be exposed to programs within the community and likewise expose the facilitators of these programs for their potential to be expansion of service learning opportunities, (4) students will learn the value of health promotion interdisciplinary team advocacy to increase positive health outcomes, (5) students will use measureable criteria in the evaluation of outcomes and solicit feedback from paraprofessionals and stakeholders regarding results of conference.

Student Learning Outcomes

Apply disciplinary specific knowledge and skills to an inter-professional service learning opportunity.

Assess the community’s perspectives on health.

Collaborate with VAND, each other, and faculty members to facilitate community-based health promotion for individuals and communities.

Identify additional community needs and resources relevant to the communities paraprofessionals serve.

Incorporate the principles of health literacy into the design and implementation of health promotion programming.

Evaluate through measureable criteria conference outcomes from solicited feedback.

Community Needs and Outcomes.

The Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (VAND) is a professional, not-for-profit organization of food and nutrition experts affiliated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nearly 1600 members serve the citizens of our Commonwealth through the promotion of optimal nutrition, health and well-being. This Interdisciplinary service learning project directly impacts the organizations goals and objectives by:

Supporting community partners in their efforts to improve the public’s health

 Decrease infant mortality and malnourishment through nutritional programs in the community

Decrease oral health disease and influencing the risk factors that cause oral diseases

Strengthen professional/paraprofessionals’ abilities to improve health through strategies that focus on community development and sustainable programs.


Critical reflection (Bringle & Hatcher, 1999) is essential to assisting the students to achieve a meaningful service learning experience which bridges coursework with critical community health needs. Thus, students will be asked to reflect on their own attitudes, beliefs and values regarding health promotion. Blogs, free writing exercises, and post-event round table discussions will be used as teaching-learning strategies for facilitating student refection, achievement of learning outcomes, and evaluation. Student will also prepare a poster to be presented at the College of Health Science Interprofessional Education (IPE) day Spring, 2015.


Chavez, D. (2013).  Interprofessional collaborative practice in primary health care: Nursing and midwifery perspectives. World Health Organization. Issue 13, 1-17.

        Maternal, infant and child health. (2014). Healthy People 2020. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from:

        /2020-lhi topics/Maternal-Infant-and-Child-Health.

Virginia Oral Health Coalition. (September 5, 2014) Governor McAuliffe announces dental benefits for pregnant women. Retrieved October 7, 2014 from:

Virginia Performs: Infant Mortality (2014a). Retrieved October 7, 2014 from:

Virginia Performs: Obesity (2014b). Retrieved October 7, 2014 from:

Welcome to the Virginia academy of nutrition & dietetics. (2014). Retrieved September 29, 2014, from VAND: