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VOL. 128 | NO. 24 | Tuesday, February 05, 2013

CBU Partners With Congregational Health Network

By MICHAEL WADDELL

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Christian Brothers University’s RN to BSN Nursing Program is strengthening its relationship with the Congregational Health Network with a new online training course.

The online course is being developed with the help of a $12,100 grant that CBU recently received from The Promise of Nursing for Tennessee Nursing School Grant Program, which is administered by the Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association.

The Congregational Health Network is a partnership between Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, more than 500 local church congregations and community health organizations. To participate with the health network, CBU nursing students must complete a 14-hour training session.

The online version of the course will be accessible at any time and completed at the student’s chosen pace, which will relieve a burden on many CBU nursing students who work full-time in addition to attending classes.

In 2010 CBU’s RN to BSN Program partnered with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare to provide nursing students with the chance to fulfill their clinical requirements while serving in the health network. Students earn real-world experience working within diverse local congregations and communities.

“What we are trying to do overall is increase the access to care and improve the health of our communities,” said Dr. Peggy Ingrem Veeser, director of the CBU Nursing Program. “As a faith-based organization, we were happy to be able to partner with this particular program from Methodist.”

“What we are trying to do overall is increase the access to care and improve the health of our communities.”

–Dr. Peggy Ingrem Veeser
Director, Christian Brothers University Nursing Program

The CBU Nursing Program graduated its first class of 18 students in December, and Veeser expects the college’s RN to BSN program to get full approval for accreditation from the Tennessee Board of Nursing later this month.

The program is designed for working registered nurses and has an enrollment of 63 students.

Since forming in 2006, the Congregational Health Network has reduced mortality, inpatient utilization and health care costs and charges, while improving satisfaction with hospital care. On average, total health care costs among participants are $8,700 lower than among similar nonparticipants, generating more than $4 million in savings to the health care system.

Hospital charges among participants are significantly lower in 10 of the 12 most common diagnostic groups, including congestive heart failure, stroke, other cardiovascular diagnoses, and diabetes.

Program leaders say the savings stem from patients coming to the hospital before their conditions became highly acute.

“In our last cohort, we had six nurses involved with the CHN program, and we are hoping to increase that number with this new online availability,” Veeser said. “Students are able to learn about in-hospital support, community health promotion, the social system between among congregations, volunteers and partners, and the training and education of the liaisons.”

Students get health care training in areas like community care, visitation, end of life, mental health and first aid.

The health network employs 10 full-time navigators that work inside and outside the hospitals and serve as community case managers.

“They link into more than 550 unpaid volunteer liaisons from the churches that really do the work on the ground,” said Dr. Teresa Cutts, CHN director of research for innovation for the center of excellence in faith and health.

Enrolled congregants are flagged by the health system’s electronic medical records whenever admitted to the hospital. A hospital-employed navigator visits the patient to determine his or her needs, and then works with a church-based volunteer liaison to arrange post-discharge services and facilitate the transition to the community.

The liaisons and clergy members also receive training and other benefits from the health system, allowing them to serve as role models and provide education to congregants.

“The overall goal of the network is to improve the health care status of everyone in the Memphis area by 2020. The focus is more on community care giving, but the idea is to integrate that with the more traditional clinical work that we do in the hospital. It’s all about the person-centered journey of health.” Cutts said. “We’ve done more than 2,000 very in-depth training classes that are so high caliber that two local community colleges offer elective credit for completion of the core courses.”

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