The University of Tennessee Health and Science Center

The University of Tennessee Health and Science Center

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OVErview of the Curriculum Innovation

The University of Tennessee Health Science, Center College of Nursing partners with two state health departments to provide support for mutual collaboration and program improvement in the delivery of public health nursing to citizens in Tennessee and Arkansas. The program provides opportunities for faculty, public health practitioners and PHN DNP students to use reflection about opportunities to improve public health nursing practice. The PHN DNP students base interventions on the needs of the communities they serve using Quad Council public health nursing competencies.  One of the challenges in this practice improvement partnership has been to shift the emphasis from individual-level interventions in the community to population-level systems impact. The involvement of public health nursing faculty together with senior management at the health department has motivated line managers and students to learn these important skills and make this important change in evidence-based effectiveness. The program has enabled line managers and senior managers in the health department to improve leadership skills through planning and communication about program goals. The students, practitioners, and community faculty focus on common ground when considering goals that have population and system’s impact. The program emphasizes PHN clinical interventions that are based solidly on the implementation and documentation of the public health nursing core competencies as they apply to the communities’ defined needs.  Students, practitioners and community faculty design logic models with action plans that are based on the expressed community needs and then match the core competencies to professional capacity and competence. Students also build a portfolio of activities to demonstrate expertise in each core competency area. Summaries of the issues and evidence-based recommendations for improvement are produced by the student.  The programs use logic models to link clinical process measures with anticipated short and long term outcomes. The “CAN-DO-IT” program, developed with HRSA funding, provides participants with a better understanding of how their everyday actions translate into effective, evidenced-based public health nursing interventions. It also has provided students with a deeper insight into population perspective necessary for effective primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention in public health. Dissemination of the “CAN-DO-IT” program through presentations at APHA meetings by several of the faculty and students have demonstrated the effectiveness of the model. Follow-on projects include analysis of school and homeless health programs, disaster and syndrome surveillance programs, minority health interventions focused on improving infant mortality, congestive heart failure, equity and access to health care, and programs that support the development of public health nursing leadership in selected southern states. Today the “CAN-DO-IT” model supports a number of community safety-net organizations as well as a collaborative and developing program to respond to elder abuse and neglect in the region.


Patricia M. Speck, DNSc, APN, FNP-BC, DF-IAFN, FAAFS, FAAN
The University of Tennessee Health and Science Center College of Nursing