By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Student

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, one of three adults age 65 or older falls each year. For older adults, a fall can cause severe injuries, such as fractures or concussions. Falling and the fear of falling can hamper individuals’ ability to lead healthy, independent lives. UTC students from various fields did their part to help prevent falls at Fall Prevention Awareness Day.

“A fall can cause injuries like a broken hip, after which they might have to go to a nursing home. And that puts them at a big risk for decreased independence and never really getting home again. We’re trying to work together to prevent that before it happens,” explains Meredith Russell, a physical therapy graduate student.

Students from a wide range of departments partnered with local organizations to offer a Falls Prevention Awareness Day at Lowe’s in Hixson, Tennessee. Students from the Department of Nursing, Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, Occupational Therapy, and Social Work partnered with the Health Department, Siskin Rehab, and others to organize this event.

UTC not only helped raise awareness about the risk of falls for older adults, but also provided its students with experiential learning necessary for future health care professionals. This event was a part of InterProfessional Collaborative Practice Approach for Geriatric Education Strategies (ICPC-AGES) and Providing Advanced, Culturally Competent Care through Clinical Training (PACT4). In response to regional health indicators and health workforce needs, UTC designed IPCP-AGES and PACT4 with the support of Heath Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants.

“Historically, health professions programs have been really compartmentalized, but there is an increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary education and activities so these professionals, once they graduate, have a better understanding of what each other’s relative strengths are and are able to better coordinate care for the patients they are all working with. The goal is to provide better patient-centered care,” says Dr. Gary Wilkerson, EdD ATC, a faculty member of the Athletic Training Program.

Health care professionals need to be prepared to interact effectively as part of collaborative health care teams to enhance patient safety and offer effective care. The IPCP-AGES project will advance interprofessional preparation and create more efficient and integrated practices that lead to high quality patient and population-centered outcomes.

“We are bringing inter-professional education to other health professions because we know that as a community, health professions have got to learn how to work as a team to provide safe, effective care,” says Dr. Candace Bishop, DNP, APN, FNP-BC, Faculty Coordinator for IPCP-AGES Award, and faculty member in the UTC School of Nursing.

UTC students and faculty worked in stations throughout Lowe’s, providing information to older adults, family members, caregivers, and service providers. They demonstrated items that can be used in the home of an older person to create safer living conditions. They also discussed fall risk factors and recommendations to prevent a fall and promote safety in the home environment. Visitors were able to tour home safety stations, watch a fall prevention and home safety demonstration by local experts, talk to aging-in-place specialists, sign up for a balance screening, and learn about other free prevention programs in the area.

“In social work, our mission is to help those in need, so anything we can do to promote knowledge and experience in our students is important. It’s important to teach our students how vital it is to work with other disciplines and to partner with other agencies in the community to help those people in need. I think this is a great opportunity for our students and our community,” says Dr. Cathy Scott, a faculty member with the UTC Social Work Program.

With support from HRSA, the IPCP-AGES project intends to improve the quality of geriatric healthcare and health outcomes for older adults, their families, and underserved communities.

“UTC students’ professions will take them out into the community and that’s where it counts. If we’re going to affect our community, then we have to get out there and learn how to work together. We have to see how the other professions are teaching and how they might answer a question. We learn from that. The students are learning from each other as well as instilling what they are being taught to the community,” says Bishop. “It is very exciting that UTC supports all of these students in all of these professions in these grant endeavors because it’s going to have a big impact. We’re very fortunate that we’re able to do these types of community events and to show the community that UTC cares. It’s not just the School of Nursing or the School of Physical Therapy, it’s the whole University that cares about the community and supports it.”

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