Transforming Care for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: Innovations in Education

Monday, 9 November 2015

Catherine M. Mann, EdD, MSN, BSN, RN, CNE-C
Lisa Sherry Ball, PhD, MS, BSN, RN, FNP-BC
Nursing Department, Daemen College, Amherst, NY, USA

Nursing faculty recognize individuals with developmental disabilities as an underserved community with unmet needs. Disparities in health care may be attributed to lack of health provider knowledge and comfort in caring for the population (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014; Ward, Nichols, & Freedman, 2010).

In response to the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council’s (NYS DDPC) call for proposals related to piloting, evaluating, and infusing innovative programs to educate and empower health care professionals to act as leaders in providing quality health care to people with developmental disabilities (NYS DDPC, 2012), innovative graduate, undergraduate, and community education strategies and resources were developed, implemented, and evaluated.

“Partners in Health Education for People with Disabilities,” initially implemented in January 2013, is an ongoing innovative program that was developed to educate and empower nurse practitioners and physician assistants to act as leaders in providing quality health care to people with developmental disabilities. The program focused on improving abilities to (a) synthesize concepts from pathophysiology and epidemiology with societal and legal issues affecting individuals with developmental disabilities across the lifespan, (b) demonstrate leadership and evidence-based practice competencies as members of the interdisciplinary team, and (c) employ competent patient-centered care to individuals with developmental disabilities. 

“Educating Nurses to Care for Medically Fragile Individuals with Developmental Disabilities” is a program presenting opportunities to develop advocacy and leadership skills when caring for medically fragile individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Initially implemented in September 2013 for registered nurses, the program was expanded in Fall 2014 to include all health care students and professionals.

The purpose of the current presentation is to share strategies and resources for use in graduate, undergraduate, and community education to improve health care for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Regional strategies and resources used in local programs to empower clinicians to act as leaders and change agents for this underserved population will be presented. Implications for broader implementation in education will further be discussed.