Nurses Need Nutrition, Too

Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Whether as a nursing student, professor, school nurse, floor nurse or research nurse, at one time or another we’ve all had to eat on the go. There never seems to be enough time in the day to sit down and enjoy a meal. We’re always looking forward to the next class, next patient or next task at hand.

Some nurses work nights adding to their dietary disorder. We, as nurses, stress the importance of good nutrition with our patients, but when it comes to nourishing ourselves, nurses are just as guilty of turning to empty calories or skipping meals all together.

This post is a gentle reminder that nurses should take time to grab a healthy snack and seek nutritious meals.

Surprisingly, the hospital cafeteria is not always the best model for nutrition. Often they grill frozen processed hamburgers and chicken breasts and offer high-calorie, sugary, carbonated drinks. In most hospitals, the cafeteria is rarely open at night or serves a limited menu of junk food items, such as microwaveable sandwiches and burritos.

Patients’ families are typically quite generous, especially around the holidays, and love to spoil the nursing staff with sweets and desserts. These are just a few of the contributing factors to poor nurse nutrition, lethargy and weight gain.

Although you might think that bad eating habits don’t affect your job performance, the headache, lack of energy, and grogginess you feel after your 44-oz. soda rush leaves you mentally and physically challenged for the remainder of your shift. You may also find that those extra pounds hiding around your waistline make it harder to move patients. Without a doubt, your nutrition affects your overall wellness and your ability to think on the job.

OK, so maybe nutrition is important even for the most physically fit and brightest nurses, but with all these roadblocks how can nurses motivate themselves? Little things make a big difference; first explore new foods.

There is always something exciting about opening up your lunchbox and finding a food you’ve never tasted. Even the most diversified eater can find something in a farmers’ market or health food store they have never tried before. You may find you hate certain flavors and textures, but at the very least you will expand your palate.

Dr. Seuss promoted this concept in his beloved book Green Eggs and Ham.

You do not like them so you say.
Try them, try them, and you may!
Try them and you may, I say.
Sam, if you would let me be,
I will try them, and you will see.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!

Speaking of lunchboxes, treat yourself to a sassy new lunch carrier. Gone are the days of metal lunch pails displaying your favorite Muppet character. Today you can find shabby chic, contemporary and useful containers to store your meals. My personal favorite is Vera Bradley. Although on the pricier side, I have found the quality of these lunch carriers to be impeccable.

The Container Store has unique items to store lunch, from trendy thermal lunch sacks to stackable bento boxes, the options are endless. And don’t forget to add a fun matching tumbler or travel mug, which often can be personalized. Do you have a favorite lunch container idea or brand you love? Please share your favorites in the comments section below.

Thinking outside the (lunch) box brings some excitement back into your meals. Try packing your favorite granola cereal, milk and yogurt for your night shift. Some of my favorite meals involve creatively mixing things I love, such as sandwiches made of peanut butter, honey and apples on toast, and Nutella and bananas on raisin cinnamon bread.

Another favorite is ham, cheese and mayo sandwiches served on King Hawaiian original sweet bread buns with salt and vinegar chips. Consider tortillas, pita bread and crackers combined with sandwich items or dips like sun-dried tomato hummus or pesto.

Pinterest and the internet are filled with ideas for creative lunches and snacks. Spend a day surfing and finding new ideas that appeal to you. This small effort will make a difference and light that spark of inspiration, which hopefully will encourage you to think about nutrition in 2014.

Most importantly work for a balanced diet. Try filling your lunchbox with all the food groups, including grains, fruits, dairy, vegetables, and a good source of protein.

Here are some helpful links:

Container Store

Vera Bradley


Lunch Ideas

Awesome Lunches to Bring to Work

7 Easy, Speedy Lunches

85 Snack Ideas for Kids & Adults

Let Me Give You Some Advice

Graduate coordinators for the UT Austin School of Nursing

Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz, Graduate Coordinators

The job of a graduate coordinator goes far beyond advising students. They must be effective advocates for graduate students and graduate causes for the School of Nursing. In addition to being accessible to students, the graduate coordinator role involves:

  • Providing an effective liaison between students and the graduate advisor, the graduate program, and the graduate school
  • Having the ability to carry out administrative tasks
  • Anticipating problems and resolving issues effectively
  • Having great communication and organizational skills
  • Having the ability to promote efficient and effective administration of the graduate programs

In this session of “Let Me Give You Some Advice,” we meet Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz, graduate coordinators for the School of Nursing.

Why is advising important?

Ortiz: Faculty advisors help graduate students navigate the system by assisting students in completing their program requirements for their MSN, post-MSN (certification) or PhD program and developing career goals. Graduate advisors and the graduate program coordinators also assist with The University of Texas at Austin and the School of Nursing policy and procedures, along with administrative duties submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies or Graduate and International Admissions Center.

Demchuk: Advising at the graduate level is two-fold. All graduate students have a faculty advisor who they officially meet twice a year to ensure that they are meeting course requirements for the concentration area in which they are enrolled. As a graduate coordinator, I support the faculty advisor by having a strong working knowledge of the academic policies as well as understanding each program of work, which also ensures that the student meets all course requirements and that all policies of the graduate school are being followed.

Graduate coordinators for the UT Austin School of Nursing

Graduate coordinators Tracy Demchuk and Rudy Ortiz review graduate programs

What is a typical day like for you?

Demchuk: It would depend on the semester and time of year. October through February, my typical day involves working on admissions and communicating with prospective students and the admissions team. A month or so of every semester, a typical day is preparing and coordinating advising. During the beginning of each semester, it’s dealing with registration issues or questions. No matter what time of year, a big part of most days is communication with students, prospective graduate students, and assisting graduate deans and faculty with data and questions. In addition, I need to be available at a moment’s notice to complete important time-sensitive tasks, which is an integral part of any process that ensures student success at the graduate level.

Ortiz: Answering 75 plus emails the first thing in the morning, returning several phone calls, being available for walk-ins during business hours, and working on several projects as we prepare for the next business cycle; for example, admissions, registration, prospective students, recruiting, advising, current student assistance, graduation. The list goes on!

What’s a typical question you get?

Demchuk: There are several. When is the last day to drop a course with a refund? Can I take this course credit/co-credit? Can you help me register for this course? Can I use this course for my support course?

Ortiz: Does the School of Nursing offer graduate online degree programs? Are there scholarships for me? How much scholarship funding may I expect to receive?

What are some of your job duties other than meeting one-on-one with students?

Demchuk: Speaking with prospective students, facilitating information sessions for the AE-MSN program, gathering graduate data for the School of Nursing and the university, managing admissions for the AE-MSN and AE-PhD program, coordinating and managing, advising internal transfers, keeping all documents and information current, managing graduate fellowships processes, assisting with compliance, assisting with School of Nursing alumni needs, and being part of team with all of the other School of Nursing departments.

Ortiz: Recruiting in the Texas area, certifying graduation, and assisting with graduation ceremony are some of the fun duties.

What do you consider the most important part of your job?

Demchuk: Being a liaison for School of Nursing graduate students and the university; which means I’m available to assist, direct and support each student to ensure that they are successful.

Ortiz: Being available to assist current students, faculty and prospective applicants in understanding the policies and procedures in order to achieve their educational goals.

What’s been one of the more difficult questions you’ve had to answer or situations you’ve had to deal with?

Demchuk: I don’t think any question or situation is too difficult to answer or deal with but the ones that tug on my heart are situations that are personal (loss, illness, etc.) and that are affecting or inhibiting student success.

Ortiz: Why hasn’t the School of Nursing started the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program since it is mandatory by 2015? This is a topic that applicants hear in chat rooms, that it will be mandatory for all nursing programs in the U.S. to establish a DNP program by 2015 and eliminate the traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs. THe DNP is not a mandatory requirement. It is a recommendation by the accrediting board for nursing programs to consider. The School of Nursing is currently exploring the possibility of starting the DNP program, but doesn’t have plans to dissolve the traditional MSN nurse practitioner programs.

What should students understand about the services you offer before they come to see you? How should they prepare?

Demchuk: A graduate coordinator can answer questions or point a student in the right direction, and we are here to help. But I like to instill a sense of responsibility in students by asking them to, at minimum, search for information prior to coming to my office. The School of Nursing and UT websites hold a wealth of information, and it just takes a SEARCH to find answers.

Ortiz: Students should understand that our office is available to assist them with their academic goals as they pursue their MSN or PhD degree. We provide the tools and resources needed to complete the necessary paperwork required by the university and the School of Nursing. Our goal is make life easier and less stressful so the students can focus on their studies.

Anything else you’d like to share about the job or about working with students?

Demchuk: I have worked in many roles in post-secondary admissions and student affairs for over 13 years, and my favorite aspect of every position has been the opportunity to work with students and watch each one succeed and GRADUATE! Being a small part of a student’s reaching the finishing line through graduation is very fulfilling.

Ortiz: It is one of the best jobs on campus. I have the opportunity to see students earn their degree (graduate) and walk the stage (commencement). That is the greatest joy, plus all the thank you’s we receive for doing our job. That’s rewarding to me … to see so many smiling faces of success.

A Closer Look at Health Care Rationing

Dr. Terry Jones

Dr. Terry Jones

Health care rationing is a politically charged issue that evokes deep emotional reactions from a variety of individuals and institutions: politicians, patients, payors and providers. Despite widespread agreement that resources to sustain current trends in health care spending are inadequate, the role of rationing in U.S. health care reform remains polarizing.

But what exactly  is health care rationing?

Rationing is a term used to describe allocation of resources in the context of scarcity, which exists in health care when the need for services exceeds the resources to provide services. Thus, health care rationing involves decisions to withhold beneficial services for reasons associated with inadequate resources.

Rationing is best discussed in the context of health-care decision making, which is made at multiple levels within the system:

•    the macro level, where policy is established by governments, health authorities, insurance plans, etc.;

•    the meso level, where organizational budgets are established by organizational administrators; and

•    the micro level, where care is delivered by clinicians.

Macro- and meso-level decisions are most commonly made by administrative authorities in the form of explicit policies and fixed budgetary allowances. Such policies are typically rule based and broadly applied. Decisions of this form that result in withholding health care are administrative and/or political in nature and are considered a form of explicit rationing.

In contrast, decisions about withholding care at the micro level are typically applied to specific patients and contexts based on the judgment of frontline clinicians. Decisions of this form are clinical and discretionary in nature and are considered a form of implicit rationing, also known as bedside rationing.

Most of the political rhetoric and media attention about health care rationing has centered on explicit rationing, while implicit rationing has received comparatively little attention. This is not surprising since policymaking is more visible to the public than bedside clinical decision making. Consequently, implicit rationing has been characterized as a form of hidden rationing that remains largely invisible to the public and possibly to patients themselves.

In essence, cost containment strategies shift the burden of responsibility for rationing decisions from policymakers to clinicians. Additionally, the decision-making process is shifted underground from the visible world of policymaking to the invisible world of clinical-decision making. Invisible decisions are inherently more difficult to measure and evaluate and invisible decision makers more difficult to hold accountable.

As prescribers of medical care, physicians are often viewed as gatekeepers for access to health care. However, health care extends beyond medicine to include multiple clinical disciplines, and access to medical care requires more than a physician prescription. Although medical care may be prescribed by physicians, it is largely accomplished through the interdependent and collaborative efforts of other disciplines, particularly nursing.

For example, physicians may prescribe medications, diets and procedures, but it is the nurse that must administer them. When the volume of care prescribed exceeds the available time among the nursing staff on duty, decisions must be made about which elements of care are completed and which are delayed or left undone. This might mean that, in order to administer all prescribed medications on time, a nurse may cut back on the amount of teaching provided, limit the frequency in which patients are assisted to the bathroom or skip a scheduled blood pressure assessment.

The frequency and patterns of implicit rationing of nursing care in the U.S. are not known. Furthermore, the practice of implicit rationing may not be generalizable across countries due to the variability in systems of health care delivery, health care reimbursement and nursing education. Given the U.S aversion to explicit rationing and the prevalence of cost containment initiatives among U.S. health care organizations, it is imperative that implicit rationing practices be more thoroughly explored and evaluated.

A study I recently completed provides evidence that implicit rationing may be a routine component of clinical decision making among medical-surgical nurses in at least one U.S. state. Moreover, it suggests that, when faced with time scarcity, medical-surgical nurses may favor completion of activities to address direct and immediate physiological health needs over psychological and future health needs.

The documented presence of implicit rationing of nursing care in the U.S. health care system has important implications for research, practice and education. Research is needed to determine if the relationships documented in other countries between implicit rationing and adverse patient outcomes are also present in the U.S. If these relationships are supported, then implicit rationing may serve as an important quality indicator.

A better understanding of the decision-making process is needed to guide quality assessment of rationing preference patterns and develop strategies to support “good” rationing decisions. Nurse leaders must create opportunities to learn more about the underlying rationale for rationing preferences and what information is considered when deciding among choice options.

Finally, more research is needed to assess relationships between specific preferences patterns; for example, completion of direct and immediate physiologic care activities and patient outcomes to support value judgments about the quality of rationing decisions.

Armed with this information, educators can better guide clinicians toward choice options associated with favorable risk-benefit profiles.

—Terry Jones, RN, PhD, assistant professor


Jones, Terry. (2014). Validation of the perceived implicit rationing of nursing care (PIRNCA) instrument. Nursing Forum, (early release online January 8, 2014). Doi:10.1111/nuf.12076

Jones, T. (in press). A descriptive analysis of implicit rationing of nursing care: frequency & patterns in Texas. Nursing Economic$

Learn About the ADN to BSN Program

ADN to BSN student

Nelda, ADN to BSN student

The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing’s Associate Degree in nursing to Bachelor of Science in nursing (ADN to BSN) program is designed to prepare registered nurses with an associate degree to advance their careers, gain new skills and confidence, pursue leadership opportunities, and prepare for graduate school.

“The different teaching-learning options in this program address the fact that most of these students have already started a nursing career and have life responsibilities in addition to employment. For instance, many have work schedules that vary weekly and may have families,” said Dr. Lorraine C. Haertel, assistant professor of clinical nursing. “Offering options that best fit their lifestyle, learning style and schedule is a strong contributing factor to our goal of increasing the number of nurses who have BSN degrees. Course options include the traditional face-to-face classroom, online and hybrid courses that combine online with periodic, but not necessarily weekly, classes.”

The ADN to BSN program takes approximately 15 months to complete if students attend part-time, and 10 months, if full-time. Students range from newly graduated ADN holders to nurses with more than 30 years of experience.

“It’s an unbelievable program,” said Dr. Linda Carpenter, associate professor of clinical nursing. “It’s rigorous and offers both depth and breadth. Once students graduate, they are prepared to carry out their job with greater confidence or pursue leadership opportunities. We are also seeing a growing interest from these students in advanced practice nursing. Completing the BSN program provides so many options.”

Information about the program, including admission requirements, has been published in a new brochure. If you are a registered nurse interested in obtaining a baccalaureate degree, stop by the School of Nursing to request a brochure, or contact Brian Losoya, ADN to BSN advisor, at

ADN to BSN student

James, ADN to BSN student

“Through this program, I have gained confidence in my skills as a nurse — and as a person. I plan to continue my education at UT Austin through graduate school, where I know I will be prepared to be the best nurse I can be.” —James, UT Austin ADN to BSN student.

The BSN program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the accrediting organization for professional nursing education and is approved by the Board of Nursing in Texas.

ADN to BSN student

Lauri, ADN to BSN student

“In my BSN program, I’m learning a more global aspect of health care. Besides learning ‘how’ to do the things nurses do, I’m learning ‘why’ they do them. It’s exciting!” —Lauri, UT Austin ADN to BSN student.

Student Nurses to the Rescue


Hurricane and fire seasons are upon us and a Boston-style bombing could happen at any time in any American city. Is Austin ready for an emergency?

People playing victims of disaster

The aftermath of a tornado strike on Walmart (actually a mock disaster drill in the Lone Star Room at the Frank Erwin Center)

Experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that disaster preparedness efforts have improved, but they could—and must—be better and are calling for more and better-trained disaster management teams.

That’s why The University of Texas at Austin Schools of Nursing and Social Work were recently preparing for the unthinkable by staging one of the largest mock disaster drills Austin has seen.

Student nurses sprang into action.

Student nurses sprang into action.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, more than sixty student nurses and social workers triaged nearly 200 “wounded victims” during a recent mock disaster drill sponsored jointly by UT Austin Schools of Nursing and Social Work at the Frank Erwin Center.

Experts agree that improving disaster preparedness requires teamwork, but learning how to work in teams with other health-care providers shouldn’t begin during an actual disaster.

Student nurses moving body

There was teamwork …

Students used interprofessional strategies to respond to the aftermath of a fictional disaster—a tornado hitting a local Walmart—to prepare for a real one.

“We want all of our graduates to have basic competency in disaster preparedness and emergency response,” said Whitney Thurman, RN, MSN, instructor of clinical nursing and organizer of this year’s disaster drill.

“Talking about what to do in the event of an emergency is important, but being able to actually simulate the experience and the emotions of such an event imparts a greater understanding.

“During the drill, students practiced triage and assessment skills as well as basic emergency first aid. Many students have reported being surprised at how much they learned and truly feel more prepared to respond in an appropriate and safe way should they ever need to,” Thurman added.

Teamwork …

Teamwork …

About the School of Nursing Disaster Preparedness Program: Recognized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing with the 2011 Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Award, the School of Nursing’s Disaster Preparedness program ensures that faculty (experienced experienced clinical and public health nurses) and upper-level students are prepared to mobilize for triage and care of victims and evacuees, allowing hospital personnel to remain at their stations.

And more teamwork!

And more teamwork!

Although some of the lucky victims were merely dazed and confused …

Although some of the luckier victims were merely dazed and confused …

Some of the disaster drill victims were found to be deceased

… others didn’t make it.

Keeping track of victims and injuries

Keeping track of victims and injuries

A new do? No, a "victim" receiving treatment for a head wound.

A new do? No, a “victim” receiving first aid treatment for a head wound.

Slips of paper for triage

Triage tags at the ready

students in a group

After the drill, a debriefing: What went right, what went wrong

Job well done!

School of Nursing professor wearing a badge

Dr. Corinne Grimes, a member of the Disaster Preparedness team, sports the team’s motto “Doing our best to make your day a disaster.”

Pinterest—What Nurses Need to Know

Editor’s note: Social media is growing and changing at a breathless rate of speed, and many people find it difficult to find time to delve into each new tool. The following is alum Shannan Needleman’s take on one new social media tool she thinks nurses—and those who love them—may find particularly fun and helpful. And don’t forget to stay connected with the School of Nursing on Twitter, Facebook and Nurses Lounge.

Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Pinterest is one of the newer fads sweeping the Internet. It is by its own definition “a tool for collecting and organizing things you love”—and who wouldn’t love that? The photo-sharing website boasts that millions of people use Pinterest in their lives and work, and that no matter what you’re interested in, there is a place for it on Pinterest.

For instance, you can “pin” your favorite fashion designs or crafting tutorials. Some people like pinning home decor ideas and photos. Even if you are a regular on the site, you probably never thought to search “nursing.” Well, think again!

Pinterest has several boards titled “nursing school,” “nursing student,” “nursing humor,” “nursing scrubs,” and my personal favorite: “anything nursing.” On these boards you will find a slew of nursing information from adorable scrub outfits to new and exciting nursing products or even just a good laugh for the day.

Each pin can be re-pinned on your personal board(s) to save for future reference or you can visit the sites the boards have highlighted by simply clicking the pin on the board and then clicking the link below the photo. Or you can follow another person’s board. This is a timesaving option when you find a board with lots of things that you’re interested in.

The best way to learn about Pinterest is to just do it. You’ll need to create an account, which is easy. Visit and log in with an email address and password or your Facebook account.

Once you create your account, you will be asked to follow five boards, select anything that interests you and BAM! you are ready to create your own boards.

But BEWARE! This site can be addictive and you may spend countless hours browsing other people’s boards.

Pinterest users are terrific at finding unique products and photos. You’ll get a whole new perspective on surfing the Internet or finding new interests. You may discover, for instance, a budding interest in architecture or sewing.

I decided to create a nursing board when I was searching the Internet for a gift for a recent PR_282594graduate. My initial Google search for nursing gifts resulted in the usual items, such as a framed copy of the Florence Nightingale pledge and jewelry boxes, so I decided to search “nursing” on Pinterest and my oh my … other people had done the work for me.

I found pictures and links to adorable nursing tags and stethoscope covers, a box of chocolate band aids, a prescription bottle cocktail shaker, holiday ornaments, waistband stethoscope clip, unique t-shirts, car decals—the list was virtually endless. The gifts I found were in different price ranges, too.

Want inspiration? Get a taste for the Pinterest world simply by viewing my board and then sign up for your own Pinterest account:

Already 900x900px-LL-457062b1_modulescopperminealbumsuserpics6092431_1240279155have an account? Be sure and check out what Pinterest has to offer in the world of nursing. You never know when you might need to give a graduate a fun gift.

And let me leave you with a cartoon on one of the 130
“nursing humor” 60f75bf9339b2146d72ce987cc7037b6boards:

Welcome to a New Semester

Dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing

Dean Alexa Stuifbergen

You really know that time is flying when you find yourself saying “welcome” to the Class of 2017! We’ve got a wonderful group of undergraduates joining the School of Nursing family this fall for their J1 semester and have high hopes for their success.

These students are among the best and brightest, with an average cumulative UT GPA thus far of 3.65. In addition, 60 percent of our incoming upper division students graduated in the top 5 percent of their high school classes. Truly impressive!

I’m particularly pleased to welcome several new faculty members to campus. Each enhances our level of excellence and innovation. You’ll be hearing from some of them this year through their posts on this blog and you can learn about others from checking out our website at

Nursing will also have a significant presence in University matters with the appointment of one of our newest full professors, Dr. Miyong Kim, as associate vice president for Community Health Engagement.

We’re also welcoming our colleagues across campus as they join us in our efforts to create a climate rich in interprofessional education and collaboration. After the launch of a highly successful elective in this area last fall, this year we’re offering another new course, in conjunction with the School of Social Work, focusing on transformative health care teams.

With the coming Dell Medical School and Seton’s new teaching hospital, the look of our end of Red River Street will soon be changing. We’re ready to welcome a new group of students, faculty, staff and researchers to the neighborhood. Ah… but first we must welcome the surveyors, architects and construction crews.

In the space of a few months, the transformation of our end of campus will begin, and we’re welcoming the progress.

How Do Nurses Go From Healing to Hurting?

Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Alumna Shannan Needleman and her daughter Taylor

Cases of abuse in nursing are few and far between, but sadly they do exist. How can a person who swore at graduation to uphold the Florence Nightingale Pledge then go on to harm a patient?

To many it is almost inconceivable that any nursing professional could intently inflict pain on a patient entrusted in their care. Often patients are too sick, weak or incoherent to defend themselves. Occasionally the media will publicize an abuse incident, as was the case in a Dallas nursing home not too long ago. But such things could happen in any nursing home in any city.

Physical harm may leave signs of abuse, while neglect can take an emotional toll on patients and families. Both offenses are punishable by law and equally disturbing, which raises the question: How does a nurse reach this point of not only no longer caring, but overtly inflicting harm?

Some will argue that the profession’s long, odd hours; a nursing shortage; and incompetence all play a role. This post is not written to explore the reasons why abuse exists, but merely to awaken our realization that abuse should not be tolerated.

It is the responsibility of all nurses to care for themselves first and foremost. Nurses should avoid working long hours, alternating between nights and days too frequently, and taking on more patients than they feel comfortable caring for during a shift.

If you are a nurse manager, you can help reduce the stress of staff nurses by evenly distributing the acuity of patients, having an open door policy for nurses to vent their frustrations, applauding teamwork and encouraging nurses to report suspected cases of neglect or abuse.

As nurses, we work hard to support one another, and it is difficult to recognize and even harder to report a fellow nurse. However, the patients should always be our first priority lest we forget the following oath we made.

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly: To pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”

—Shannan Needleman, BSN 1994

Working Collaboratively to Serve the Community

Sharon Rush, RPh, Clinical Assistant Professor

Sharon Rush, R.Ph.
Clinical Assistant Professor

In The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Pharmacy, student pharmacists are involved in intensive direct patient-care training throughout their entire four-year professional curriculum.

This training starts the very first week of class when all students learn how to conduct health screenings. By the time they graduate, they will be certified pharmacist immunizers as well as holders of certificates in Medication Therapy Management, CPR and IV Admixtures. However, their education extends beyond the classroom and into the surrounding communities through health fairs and other outreach programs.

The College of Pharmacy’s primary community outreach program is Project Collaborate, whose mission is to “provide quality health screening and health education services to underserved citizens of Texas, provide a means for student pharmacists to enhance their patient interaction and clinical skills, promote interdisciplinary collaboration, and advance the profession of pharmacy.”

Project Collaborate has partnered for several years with outside organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and Univision to work together to improve the quality of health for those populations that cannot otherwise afford health-screening services. Student leaders are involved in all aspects of these health fairs, including working directly with the organizational leaders on the event logistics, maintaining inventory control on all screening supplies, setting budgets and maintaining finances, publicizing and advertising, securing pharmacist preceptors to oversee the students, and scheduling shifts for the events.

Funding for the organization is provided by alumni donations. Student professional organizations within the college contribute by creating and presenting educational posters and activities at each event.

Before the creation of Project Collaborate, the various student professional organizations conducted separate screening and educational events. These were scattered and impact was minimal. In Spring 2009, Julieta Scalo, president of the UT student chapter of the American Pharmacists Association, brought together representatives from all of the student organizations in an effort to combine limited resources and increase their impact. Project Collaborate was born.

In its first year, it provided approximately 2,000 screenings with a budget of $2,000. The following two years carried efforts a step further. While we were conducting and educating patients on their health screening values, our efforts stopped there and did not provide critical follow-up care. We responded by inviting the School of Nursing and the School of Social Work to partner with us.

The School of Nursing provided graduate nursing students to talk with patients in greater detail concerning their chronic conditions while the School of Social Work provided a list of greatly needed community resources for those patients who needed follow-up care.

One of our main challenges has been keeping representatives from the School of Nursing and School of Social Work on the planning committee and to assure their participation in the events. Their participation is key to the success of this program and the outcomes of the patients we serve. As is the case with pharmacy students, nursing and social work students need faculty or preceptors to oversee their participation. This is a critical issue in moving forward.

Our 2012–2013 year saw some amazing milestones in the organization, including:

  • Performing more than 7,100 screenings at 26 events
  • Community Service Award from the Texas Exes Parents Association
  • November 2012 Outstanding Student Organization of the Month from the UT Volunteer and Service Learning Center
  • Academic Accolades center court recognition at the UT vs. Texas Tech basketball game

This next year promises to be even more exciting, and we look forward to sharing in our success together!

—Sharon Rush, R.Ph., B.S. in Pharmacy
Clinical Assistant Professor
Division of Health Outcomes and Pharmacy Practice
Project Collaborate Advisor

Editor’s Note: If you would like more information about how to be a part of Project Collaborate, please phone Dr. Bobbie Sterling at the School of Nursing, 512-232-8264.