A New Curriculum Trains Nurses to Care for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

The Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing at St. John Fisher College’s Wegmans School of Nursing has developed a new and first-of-its-kind curriculum for integration into existing primary care nurse practitioner residency programs to improve the health care experience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The online, modularized curriculum provides an in-depth overview of health care themes and best practices in the field of IDD treatment and is created exclusively for nurse practitioners enrolled in primary care residency programs. The program focuses on practice areas where patients with developmental disabilities have radically different health outcomes, such as reproductive health, or where improved skills can reduce problems and stress, such as behavioral health. The curriculum, which is separated int five online modules, intends to broaden the resident’s understanding of the behavioral, communication, policy, programmatic, social, and physical hurdles that people with IDD face in primary care settings. The new curriculum is being tested in the Highland Family Medicine Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Residency program in Rochester, New York, and will eventually be distributed to similar residency programs around the country.

The curriculum’s goals, according to Dr. Holly Brown, associate director of the Golisano Institute, are not only greater health, better treatment, and reduced costs, but also enhanced knowledge, confidence, and abilities for the nurse practitioner. She claims that this combination boosts the provider’s sense of well-being, which is essential for maintaining a healthy advanced practice nursing workforce.

“There have been too many situations where a patient with sensory challenges comes into a noisy, chaotic setting and may not react well to being overwhelmed. A nurse practitioner with these essential skills can improve the experience of the health care visit, for instance, by collecting health information and accommodation needs in advance. Nurse practitioners can also be change agents by leveraging existing billing systems to sustain and improve the quality of care for these patients,” she explained.

Dr. Holly Brown

According to a 2019 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute’s new curriculum provides an accessible tool for nurse practitioners to address the disparities in health outcomes experiences by individuals with IDD, a group that includes more than 6.5 million people in the United States. Research shows that these people have a lower life expectancy due to a variety of reasons, including a lack of skilled health care workers and limited access to routine tests and checkups. Furthermore, individuals with IDD frequently have many and complex diseases, necessitating additional time that present care provider systems do not always accommodate.

“Primary care nurse practitioners are on the front line of providing care for this population and yet we receive the least amount of training of any health care profession in working with people with IDD. Many skills developed in this program are transferable to our other patients with communication challenges, for instance, older adults with dementia, people who have experienced a stroke, or individuals living with traumatic brain injuries.”

Dr. Holly Brown

The initiative was made possible by the Golisano Foundation and a Special Olympics International Inclusive Health Innovation award.

“Nurses comprise the largest health profession in the world and spend the most time with patients with IDD, so we were thrilled to fund this grant to help prepare them to provide the best care possible,”

Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer at Special Olympics

Information from PR Newswire

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Yaren Ay

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