Diabetes patients from the local community will continue to get help managing their health from Shepherd University students thanks to the renewal of a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Dr. Laura Clayton, professor of nursing education, is managing the three-year, $1.4 million grant titled “CHOICES Program: Changing Health Outcomes for Patients with Diabetes through an Interprofessional Collaborative Practice Environment at Shenandoah Valley Medical System.”
Clayton said the focus of the grant is inter-professional education, and last year the program involved 17 nursing students, three psychology students, two social work students, two exercise physiology students, and two family and consumer sciences nutrition students from Shepherd, as well as five medical students from West Virginia University’s School of Medicine. The students worked with approximately 60 diabetic patients from Shenandoah Community Health Center who were over age 18, not pregnant, and had a three-month blood sugar level (A1c) reading greater than seven.
“They partnered together and held classes, counseling sessions, support groups, educational sessions and participated in doing assessments of the patients with diabetes at the health center and worked with their providers,” Clayton said.
The patients came to the food lab on Shepherd’s campus a couple of times where they worked with medical and nursing students and Dr. Cydne Perry, assistant professor of family and consumer science, to learn how to make nutritious meals.
“That was real interesting because some of the patients had never cleaned vegetables, didn’t know how to chop celery, and had never tasted things such as hummus,” Clayton said. “The avocado was a big hit and many of them fell in love with avocados after we showed how to prepare them and different things they could do with them.”
Clayton said after the cooking lesson, the students accompanied the patients to Food Lion to help them choose healthy foods. Throughout the year, the students kept track of the patients’ blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
“What we were seeing with those patients is that they were losing weight and their blood sugar levels were coming down,” Clayton said. “Many of the patients had never really tested their blood sugar. They knew they were supposed to but couldn’t afford the equipment to do it and really just kind of ignored it.”
Through the grant, patients were provided the equipment and supplies needed to test their blood sugar as well as pedometers so they could keep track of their exercise.
“They’re really testing their blood sugar now and they’re getting excited as they see it’s coming down,” Clayton said. “They’re also learning what food increases blood sugar levels and what food does not. Those are those really exciting things that we’re seeing with the grant—people taking more responsibility for their healthcare.”
Clayton said Shepherd students benefit from the program because it teaches them how to help patients by working across disciplines. Renewal of the grant will allow students to continue working with the first group of patients and to add another 60 to the program this year.