Skip to main content

Lipscomb partners with Vanderbilt on research to serve asthma patients

Lipscomb pharmacy and Vanderbilt nursing students team up to provide virtual home visits to families of asthma patients.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078 | 

Drawing of lungs

Children in Nashville’s subsidized housing who have been diagnosed with chronic asthma will be getting a little extra help this spring as Lipscomb University’s College of Pharmacy and Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing team up to provide an environment assessment of asthma triggers and behavioral training beamed directly into their homes.

The research project, designed to advance interprofessional education, is funded through a grant from the Tennessee Nurses Foundation awarded to Vanderbilt. The grant will allow the researchers to provide HEPA air filters for air vents and non-allergenic pillow cases to the families along with the medical assessments and recommendations.

The project continues a long-standing relationship between Lipscomb and Vanderbilt when it comes to interprofessional education, said Hannah Kestner, instructor of nursing at Vanderbilt and lead partner on the grant. Lipscomb has often served as the pharmacy component in generalist case simulations for Vanderbilt’s pre-licensure nursing students, she said.

For this new project, each team of two nursing students and one pharmacy student will participate in a pediatric asthma case simulation and then use what they learn to bring valuable medical advice to 25 families living in Nashville’s Cayce Homes through teleconferencing.

Justin Kirby

Justin Kirby

“In-home visits typically done by a registered nurse is an emerging model of patient care,” said Justin Kirby, assistant professor of pharmacy and Lipscomb’s lead partner for the project. “It is not as common that a pharmacist would be involved in such a visit, so this is a good way to see the impact of an interprofessional approach to patient care.”

The Vanderbilt Pediatric Pulmonary Clinic has selected children who had been making a lot of trips to the emergency department or experiencing other problems related to uncontrolled asthma to be the patients served in the project, said Carrie Plummer, assistant professor of nursing at Vanderbilt.

Participating students at Vanderbilt are enrolled in Plummer’s Enhancing Community and Population Health course, and participating pharmacy students at Lipscomb are enrolled in Vulnerable Populations course, taught in part by Kirby and coordinated by Kam Nola, chair of pharmacy practice.

Sarah Uroza, associate professor of pharmacy practice at Lipscomb, is also assisting with the project.

During their virtual meetings with the families, students will assess the homes for risk factors such as the potential for dust mites or insects, smoking, cleaning chemicals or pets and will observe how the patients use their medication inhalers and when they say they use them.

“Asthma is a chronic disease we see in Middle Tennessee in fairly high numbers,” said Plummer. “It lends itself to helping students learn how to manage a chronic disease.”

Jessica Wallace

Jessica Wallace

“Asthma is a disease that is a big driver of hospitalizations, but one where there is a lot of opportunity for improvement with the proper use of medication and improved home environment,” said Jessica Wallace, associate professor at Lipscomb who provides asthma education expertise for the pharmacy participants. 

The project will expose Lipscomb pharmacy students to a diverse population of patients and help them think through ways their patients’ living situation may be different from the living situation they have experienced themselves, Kirby said.

After the virtual home visits, the Lipscomb and Vanderbilt faculty will measure the participating students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes toward interprofessional education.

“(Lipscomb) simulates these interprofessional experiences in (our) Grand Rounds (course), but putting it into practice shows them how what they are learning plays out within a vulnerable population and it shows them the value of team,” Wallace said.

“We have found that nurses get a lot of interprofessional education on the job, so we are trying to move those experiences into their training so they experience it before going on the job,” said Kestner.

Home assessment virtual simulation

Lipscomb pharmacy student Mustapha Conteh (bottom right) and Vanderbilt nursing students conducted a simulation of a home assessment for asthma triggers before meeting with real patients virtually in March.

Many student nurses are exposed to interprofessional situations in their clinical placements, said Plummer, but the degree to which they observe or are involved in those situations depends on where the clinical placement is. So Vanderbilt is looking to infuse its nursing curriculum with more real-world interprofessional opportunities in their pre-clinical training, she said.

Plummer said it will be interesting to see in this project how students figure out when to take the lead in patient education or other ways to navigate within an interprofessional team. "It’s easy to feel siloed. We want to see how they will establish an understanding of how their team works,” she said.

Lipscomb’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences has worked since 2009 to infuse interprofessional education into its programs, whether it is taking advantage of clinical programs for individual students or working on course structures to incorporate interprofessional team-building among all health science students.