VCU Receives Grant to Expand Community-Based Care Model for Seniors

A $1.5-million grant will allow the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing to expand an interdisciplinary, community-based pilot program that helps underserved older adults better manage their chronic health conditions and coordinate their care.

The three-year grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will expand and refine an existing model of interprofessional health care education and clinical service focused on improving the health and well-being of residents in their homes. The project eventually will serve as a model across the city and beyond.

Students in the Richmond Health and Wellness Program (RWHP) from the VCU schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Medicine and Social Work, overseen by licensed clinical faculty, already work in teams to provide chronic disease management and medication management to seniors living in the Dominion Place, a Richmond senior living facility owned by the Beacon Communities.

The VCU teams currently operate an on-site clinic once a week open to all 247 residents within the Dominion Place. The interprofessional teams of care providers work with patients on chronic health disease management and health promotion, focusing on conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, as well as triaging acute conditions. They also help residents better understand their medications to ensure proper dosing and scheduling, and they coordinate primary care for patients who do not have a provider.

The program was developed to provide coordinated care for low-income, often low-literacy, older adults with limited access to care – adults who many times require multiple providers to manage their complex care.

The VCU Council for Community Engagement awarded SEED funding in April 2012 to help get the first year of the pilot program started. The idea developed as an expansion of the work of Patricia Slattum, Ph.D., associate professor and geriatric pharmacotherapy program director in the VCU School of Pharmacy, who has directed a student-led pharmacy model at the Imperial Plaza living facility in Richmond for several years.

“What’s most unique about this program is that students get to see residents within their home setting, while also having the opportunity to watch professionals across the spectrum of health care work together,” said Pamela Parsons, Ph.D., geriatric nurse practitioner, assistant professor in the VCU School of Medicine and the School of Nursing, and the project director on the grant. “We are so excited about the RHWP for Older Adults, as it is aligned with VCU’s strategic plan and the Center for Interprofessional Education, bringing services into the community and providing opportunity for students to develop leadership and clinical skills within interprofessional team settings.”

As the program expands through the HRSA grant, more students will be able to participate, and the clinics will be offered twice a week. Through a partnership with the Better Housing Coalition, the clinics will expand to other living facilities in Richmond during the second and third years of the grant. In addition, the program will add a behavioral health component, the teams will start electronic charting and a new pharmaceutical model will be developed to allow the teams to administer outpatient pharmacy services on-site.

“This program is so empowering to our nursing students, as it promotes a leadership role in helping to coordinate patient care through curriculum and practice,” said Lana Sargent, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner coordinator in the VCU School of Nursing. “It teaches them that they can be leaders within a health care team structure.”

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.