October 17, 2003

School of Nursing grants total more than $1 million to fight bioterrorism

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Betsy Weiner, Ph.D.

School of Nursing grants total more than $1 million to fight bioterrorism

The School of Nursing has been awarded two separate grants to deliver online emergency preparedness programs to healthcare professionals around the country.

The first grant, totaling $759,589, is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Bioterrorism Training and Curriculum Development Program, and the second grant is from The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the amount of $1,090,145.

VUSN plans to use the funds from HHS to deliver an ideal emergency response curriculum for nursing, medical, nutrition, and social work students. Betsy Weiner, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Educational Informatics, is the principal investigator on both grant awards. She said by bringing multiple disciplines together they hope to better prepare students for any disaster scenario.

“With this grant, we’re going to take emergency preparedness curriculum and we’re going to try it, test it, and make sure we’re turning out students who are really ready for the practice field,” said Weiner.

The grant will allow VUSN to design a series of three courses for academic credit or continuing education credit, which Weiner pilot tested last Spring. Eventually, any school of nursing could access and apply the courses to their own students in their own communities.

“Our students will directly benefit from not only current content in emergency preparedness, but from our educational research on the best ways people learn,” said Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing and dean of the School of Nursing.

VUSN’s award is just a piece of the $26.6 million given by HHS. to support groups around the country focusing their efforts on improving bioterrorism preparedness.

The second grant, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, will allow Weiner and her colleagues to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of learning programs designed to educate nurses volunteering for service in their local community Medical Reserve Corps (MRC).

She will compare a face-to-face learning program with an online version of the program, both of which will be designed using the principles of the national “How People Learn” framework.

Once the volunteers have been trained using one of the two methods of delivery, they will be evaluated to learn which method works the best. Linda Norman is also a co-Investigator on this grant, as well as Jeffry Gordon, Ph.D., professor in Nursing Informatics.

Both projects will allow VUSN to offer online educational programs specifically designed to meet the established competencies for all nurses in emergency preparedness. That means that in the future, the hope is to have all nurses who respond to a disaster situation on the same page, regardless of where they were educated.

The competencies were drafted by the International Nursing Coalition for Mass Casualty Education (INCMCE), an organization chaired by Conway-Welch, with Weiner as Associate Director.

“The major underlying theme with both grants is that there is a role for every nurse in emergency response, and it may seem small, but everyone has to pitch in,” Weiner said. “These awards validate the fact that we at Vanderbilt are leading nursing schools in how to develop and deliver emergency response education. This will set the standard for others.”

All of the online materials will be completed with assistance from Little Planet Learning, a multi-media development company based in Nashville that specializes in using the “How People Learn” framework.