Nursing Students as Change Agents: Experiences in Improving Care for Patients with Intellectual Disabilities

Monday, 22 July 2013

Tanya R. Friese, RN, BS, BSN, MSN
Community, Public Health, Rush University, Chicago, IL

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to integrate student nursing projects into University and Medical Center Quality Outcome projects

Learning Objective 2: The learner will analyze needs of individuals with special needs in relation to cultural wellness

Purpose: In nursing education we strive to educate students to be change agents in the healthcare system. We prepars students to meet the competencies of clinical nurse leaders. In 2002, the Surgeon General issued Closing the Gapto improve the health of persons withIDD. Individuals with the diagnosis of mental retardation, are a population with high levels of health care needs . They represent an st important k group of hopatients. When hospitalized they face fear, they are  58% more likely to experience hospital adverse events than other patients . Programs to improve their care are needed.

Methods: An interdisciplinary committee at our medical center developed programs to improve healthcare outcomes of individuals with IDD. These programs include development of nursing care plans specific to this group,  enhanced staff education and development of a Special Needs Buddies program that pairs interprofessional staff students as buddies with patients with IDD.  Nursing students are involved in developing the nursing care plans, staff training and ongoing program evaluation organized by the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Detntistry. The efforts have developed in a way that one group of students furthers the work of previous students.

Results: Formal evaluation of patient outcomes has not yet been done. Staff participating in educational programs, however, indicate that the programs have enhanced their understanding of and ability to communicate with and effectively serve these patients.The Special Needs Buddies have made visits as volunteers to approximately 40 patients with intellectual disabilities. Family members, patients and staff  express satisfaction with the programs.

Conclusion: The involvement of graduate entry nursing students in developing a series of programs aimed at improving care for patients with intellectual disabilities provides real-life lessons on how nursing students can be involved as change agents in improving hospital care for an at-risk group.