AACN recognizes UAB SON, JCDH Partnership

Mother holding child outdoors durring an a Nurse Family Partnership visit

By Laura Gasque

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and the Jefferson County Department of Health are the recipients of the 2023 Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The award was presented during the AACN Academic Nursing Leadership Conference in October.

The partnership between the School and the JCDH began in 2016 with their shared mission of patient-centered, equitable health care for all residents and a desire to change outcomes regarding infant mortality rates and maternal health inequities that were some of the highest in the nation. In 2017, Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama was initiated and began partnering pregnant and parenting mothers experiencing adversity related to economic or social barriers with their own personal nurse.

“This award recognizes our community’s commitment and the partnership’s success in promoting health and improving outcomes in the maternity and pediatric populations,” said Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing Maria R. Shirey, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FACHE, FNAP, FAAN. “One of our goals as a School is to transform health, health policy and health care delivery through synergistic alliances and our partnership with the JCDH is making a real impact in the state of Alabama.”

Candace Knight, PhD, RN, FAAN (BSN 1997, PhD 2013), Associate Professor and Director of the Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama said the recognition showcases the partnership’s innovation as well as its measurable, positive outcomes.

“Our partnership highlights the positive impact for individuals, families, workforce, systems and policy that are possible when academic and clinical entities commit to work together on a complex challenge,” Knight said. “Improving maternal child health outcomes in our community is the right thing to do, but also leads to a healthier population that will lead more productive lives and have better opportunities for the future,” Knight said.

Within the first two years of implementation, mothers enrolled in the NFPCA program in Jefferson County had a preterm birth rate of less than 9%, while the county average remained at more than 12%. Breastfeeding rates were also higher—85% for NFPCA mothers, compared to 69% for all mothers in Alabama. The partnership also innovated beyond the traditional NFP model by integrating mental health services for clients.

“It’s very challenging to take big numbers like infant mortality rates or pre-term birth rates or low birth weights and change those on an overall population level. It’s very hard to do. But the Nurse Family Partnership of Central Alabama has done that,” said Mark Wilson, MD, who recently retired after 12 years as Jefferson County Health Officer.

NFPCA also has served as a maternal child clinical site for more than 1,000 UAB School of Nursing students since 2018 and internship or project site for multiple health related professions including social work, medicine and dentistry.

Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships Michele Talley, PhD, ACNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP, FAAN (MSN 2005, PhD 2015), highlighted the School’s successful history of developing and leading collaborative care teams. Since 2011, the School and its collaborative partners have developed seven nurse-led clinics.

“These clinics have improved access to primary care, diabetes care, heart failure care, and behavioral health services for Alabama’s most vulnerable patients, the uninsured or underinsured,” Talley said. “The leading-edge intervention of NFPCA unites our community, practice partners, and students and raises the bar for schools of nursing to educate, inspire, and impact where we live, work, and play.”

Recently, NFPCA received an $8.8 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to expand services and increase access to 27 additional counties in Alabama.

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