To help combat the decline in annual checkups for elementary school-aged children after 4 and 5 years old, when the last vaccines that are needed for school until the fifth grade are administered, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Associate Professor and alumna Tedra Smith, DNP, CRNP, CPNP-PC, CNE (MSN 2004, DNP 2011), is leading a new School partnership with Woodlawn’s i3 Academy to promote overall student health and wellness through health screenings, assessments and health education opportunities for families.
i3 Academy is a tuition-free public charter school for children in kindergarten through fifth grade and is located in the Woodlawn community in east Birmingham. Smith and teams of UAB School of Nursing students will work with i3 to provide regular hearing and vision screenings and physical assessments for students, along with health education events for families. Not only will students ages 5-10 receive preventive health care services that many often miss, UAB School of Nursing students will gain valuable experience with pediatric patients.
“It is important to provide preventative screenings for kids because it helps promote overall health in the community,” said Smith, a pediatric nurse practitioner with a specialization in primary care. “In providing this community service, we also are creating a clinical site for our UAB School of Nursing students, especially our undergraduate students, where they can gain valuable experience in caring for pediatric patients. Students also are able to apply growth and development knowledge they learned in the classroom, which is imperative when providing quality care to the pediatric population.”
i3 Academy’s Lead Nurse and Health and Wellness Coordinator Tanya Kendrick, BSN, RN, said the School’s work goes beyond health care. Bringing UAB School of Nursing students to campus also enables i3 students to see the variety of career options available in nursing, and to see a potential path for their future.
“i3 Academy is a diverse school, and it is important for our students to see other students in college,” Kendrick said. “It helps for students to see another student succeeding, and to hear health messaging from them. Even if the nursing students are a little older, they can still connect with students and say ‘Hey, I’m a student too.’”
UAB School of Nursing students also benefit, Kendrick added, as they will care for a patient population that is diverse.
“They’ll see students of all shapes, sizes and languages,” Kendrick said. “This is what our world looks like, and for both sets of students to learn in that environment is especially helpful.”
In addition to providing health checks to students in a faster time period, i3 Academy School Nurse Sarah Ebersold, RN, said this partnership also helps with preventative care.
“It’s so important to educate students and work on healthy habits now, habits that can affect their middle and high school days,” Ebersold said. “The nursing students doing physicals can also help catch high blood pressure or other health concerns that might be missed if students are not going to an annual visit with their primary care provider.”
The partnership arose over the summer, out of a clinical contract for the School of Nursing to provide annual physical assessments and year-end vision and hearing screenings. Since initially forming the connection, the partnership has expanded to include a community flu shot clinic, educational sessions on puberty for fourth and fifth grade students, COVID-19 education and grant opportunities.
In November, the School of Nursing and Birmingham Black Nurses Association (BBNA) held a community flu clinic, wherein free flu shots were provided to i3 Academy families and community members. They also provided information on COVID-19 safety and working to prevent the spread. Smith and UABSON Instructor of Nursing Deborah Bowers, DNP, CRNP, FNP-C (BSN 1985, MSN 2013, DNP 2017) led the vaccine clinic with members of BBNA.
“Our community liaison said the event was a great success. Parents came in and brought their kids, and it was coordinated with a clean-up day at the school,” Kendrick said. “It was a plus-plus—not just for the i3 family but for the community as well.”
A group of UAB School of Nursing faculty also created informational videos and flyers covering proper hand washing, the importance of flu vaccinations, staying healthy in winter months, and more. These videos were distributed to i3 Academy families and the surrounding community. The videos, featuring Smith; Instructor of Nursing Jeremy Jordan, MSN, CRNP (MSN 2014); Assistant Professor Pamela Bryant, DNP, CRNP (BSN 1993, MSN 2002, DNP 2009); Assistant Professor Steadman McPeters, DNP, CRNP (MSN 2009); Instructor of Nursing Elizabeth Coleman, MSN, CRNP; Assistant Professor Heidi Calligan, PhD, RN; and Program Manager Lisa Theus, MPH.
This group, along with additional UAB School of Nursing Pediatric Initiatives Work Group members Associate Dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships and Professor Maria Shirey, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FACHE, FAAN; Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor Linda Moneyham, PhD, RN, FAAN; Assistant Professor Leigh Bray, PhD, RN, CNL (PhD, 2018); and Assistant Professor and Associate Dean for Nursing Academic Affairs Kaitrin Parris, DNP, RN, CNE, continue to develop plans for community outreach and educational opportunities.
Smith also participated in a “LiveWire” presentation, which is a virtual, live meeting for i3 Academy families. During the meeting, she discussed COVID-19 safety and how to stay healthy during cold weather months.
“That event was a plus for us because it helps reinforce messaging on health and safety,” Kendrick said. “This way, families are not only hearing it from the school, but also from a community partner who is reinforcing it.”
“This partnership provides an opportunity to increase the overall health of the community,” Smith added. “Sometimes, poor health or a lack of healthy habits can arise out of a lack of education or resources. If you can provide information that resonates in a community, you’re more likely to see improvement. Additionally, the fact that we can see these students and community members—bringing the information to them and providing it directly—also increases the likelihood that people will change and improve their health habits.”
“I’m grateful for the School of Nursing and with UAB in general,” Kendrick said. “The School of Nursing has been the biggest partner we’ve had, and we’re looking forward to progressing partnerships with other schools at UAB as well. We look forward to growing these opportunities and resources for our school and community.”