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Grant Program Enables USM Nursing Faculty, Students to Help Underserved Patients

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 15:49pm | By: Van Arnold

Dr. Elizabeth Tinnon, left, checks Claretha Gaddis' blood pressue as part of grant project being conducted in collaboration with the Fellowship Health Clinic on Edwards Street in Hattiesburg.

A grant made possible through the Asbury Foundation Distinguished Professor in Nursing fund is helping University of Southern Mississippi nursing faculty and students provide healthcare to an under-served area of Hattiesburg.

Elizabeth Tinnon, assistant professor in the USM College of Nursing, is coordinating the grant project in partnership with the University's Institute for Disability Studies. Tinnon and nursing students are lending assistance to the Fellowship Health Clinic (FHC), located on Edwards Street in southeast Hattiesburg. The clinic provides high quality medical, dental, and pharmaceutical care at no cost to eligible uninsured and underinsured residents of Forrest and Lamar counties.

“I chose to team up with FHC because they serve a population that is often marginalized and have limited or no resources,” said Tinnon, the current Asbury Foundation Distinguished Professor in Nursing. “This population can't afford the supplies we are providing them. Everyone that we have enrolled in the program so far has been extremely grateful and expressed that they were unable to afford these basic supplies – supplies necessary for them to manage their chronic illnesses.”

Tinnon cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics showing that 50 percent of the U.S. population (approximately 162 million) has at least one chronic disease and 25 percent has two or more. According to the CDC, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes are among the most common and costly.

Further, statistics from the Institute on Disability, indicate that 12.6 percent of the U.S. population is living with a disability – defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.”

A staggering 34.2 percent of Mississippi's population suffers from multiple chronic conditions, placing it in the top four nationally. The state's cardiovascular death rate is the highest in the nation. Mississippi ranks second nation-wide for overall diabetes prevalence among adults.

Since opening its doors in January, 2016, the FHC has logged 340 new medical patient visits and more than 1,450 returning patient visits. Dental consulations include 363 extraction referrals and 88 cleaning referrals. In the area of social work, more than 145 new patients were processed with a little over 200 returning patients.

Tinnon notes that the services provided through the Asbury Fund grant project will benefit FHC patients and the region as a whole.

“It is apparent that interventions are imperative to either prevent chronic illness and/or improve self-management of chronic illnesses to decrease potential negative outcomes and disabilities,” said Tinnon. “I believe that if patients are supported both with the necessary equipment and the educational support, they will better be able to manage their chronic illnesses, preventing or delaying subsequent potential disabilities. If we find that these interventions are successful in improving self-management of chronic illnesses and improving patient outcomes, this can serve as a model for other healthcare providers to follow.”

As part of the program, patients with diabetes are provided with a glucometer, test strips, lancets, syringes and a log book to record their readings. Patients with hypertension are given an electronic blood pressure cuff and a log to record their readings. All such supplies are provided free of charge. Each patient is also provided with three face-to-face educational sessions from USM faculty and nursing students to educate them about their chronic illness and how better self-manage their disease process.

Tinnon states that another key component of the grant project is the student involvement and interaction. This real-world training offers insight and education that would be nearly impossible to acquire from a classroom.

“With nurses serving as the primary care providers for the growing number of patients with chronic illnesses, nurses must have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe, quality care to these patients,” said Tinnon. “Introducing this information to nursing students prior to graduation will increase their knowledge and skill level in caring for their current patients in clinical settings as well as impacting each patient they care for after graduation.”

To learn more about the USM College of Nursing, call 601.266.5445 or visit: