UTHSC leads new partnerships to improve health outcomes in the Mid-South



Nursing programs across the country have a new charge to broaden practices in conjunction with the health care community to create academic partnerships between clinical nursing and colleges of nursing.

To meet this goal, the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has launched a Center for Community Partnerships and Nursing Innovation.

Its purpose is to develop partnerships between the College of Nursing and health systems in Memphis, the Mid-South and throughout the state with the overall goal to advance integrated care, reduce health disparities and improve outcomes.

The partnerships will strategically align collaborative projects. They will also foster innovative models of care while enabling nursing faculty to engage in clinically-based research.

“We want to have a strong presence in the community and improve health care. We bring a different skill set to the table and that’s why these partnerships are so beneficial,” said Dr. Sara Day, associate professor and assistant dean in the UTHSC College of Nursing. “It’s blending the academic and clinical and community all together.”

The center offers education and support for evidence-based practice, nurse preceptors, graduate nurse programs and nurse scholar programs, among others.

Its mission and strategic plan aligns with recommendations from a 2015 study, Advancing Healthcare Transformation: A New Era for Academic Nursing. The research was commissioned by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. It advised an expanded role for academic nursing institutions as a key to better health care.

“Really, the recommendation is to expand your horizon and work with nurses in your community and institutions because they have needs that we can serve, and by working together, it helps both of us,” said Day.

Dr. Wendy Likes, dean of the UTHSC College of Nursing, wanted to adopt the academic-clinical model for some time. She recruited Dr. Day to develop the program for UTHSC.

“My background is program development. I’ve done this sort of work all over the world and most recently for St. Jude,” said Day.

Day’s career has centered on development, implementation and management of nursing programs and models. Her programs and models have improved the outcomes of underserved children. They have been implemented nationally and in 15 other countries.

She is well-versed in the benefits of partnering academic and clinical nursing in the community. Day has served as the director of nursing education and the director of international nursing at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

In her current position with UTHSC for six months, a big part of her job is to set up the partnerships.

Their first partnership is a public health nurse residency program with the Shelby County Health Department. The institutions will share clinical and educational resources, quality improvement, evidence-based practice projects and nursing research. A kickoff ceremony was held on Friday, May 19.

“It’s the first public health nurse residency program in the state. It will involve 10 nurses that will participate in a year-long program to advance nursing skills, develop a small-scale intervention study related to their specific area of need, teach nurses to identify a problem and change practices to improve it,” said Day.

An academic practice partnership proposal is also in the works with Methodist Hospital. UTHSC is considering at a joint position focused on research and clinical practices. Cost of the position would be shared evenly between UTHSC and Methodist Hospital.

“This is what leading hospitals do across the country. This is the way academic nursing and clinical hospitals work sharing a joint position where you are faculty at the university but the hospital buys out 50 percent of the time to do research in a specific area,” said Day.

While several partnerships are being finalized, many more are in the works. Collection of public feedback is ongoing as a measurement of the community’s pulse to account for its needs.

Potential partnerships include joint faculty research positions and academic-practice partnerships with Mid-South hospitals, specialty nursing fellowship programs and health care services for local schools.

Day is in talks with a local Montessori school. Screenings need to be done. Knowledge in developing medication and health plans for students with healthcare needs is also in demand.

According to Day, the partnership with the health department will give the tools to nurses to enable them to reach a new level of care.

“It’s a partnership that improves health care if we work together correctly. It should improve outcomes.”

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Dr. Donna Hathaway is listed as the dean of University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing, which is incorrect. Dr. Wendy Likes is the dean. 

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