$100K GBT Grant Will Expand Sickle Cell Nurse Training ‘Boot Camp’

New funding aims to close nursing care gap in SCD

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by Mary Chapman |

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A hand holds up a coin amid dollar signs and packets of money in this grant funding illustration.

A $100,000 grant from Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) will help expand a novel nurse training program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) that aims to improve care for sickle cell disease (SCD) patients.

The free training program — a “boot camp” for registered nurses — was launched last year with an initial $50,000 award from GBT.

Called the Sickle Cell Boot Camp to Promote Nursing Excellence Nationally and Globally Utilizing a Train the Trainer Model, the nurse training program was designed to address a care gap caused by the dearth of sickle cell education in nursing schools.

Some 15 nurses participated in the 2021-2022 pilot boot camp at UTHSC and learned SCD best practices. The new grant will expand the nurse training program.

“This program has the potential to impact the care of sickle cell patients nationally and globally,” Sara Day, PhD, assistant dean for community and global partnerships at the UTHSC College of Nursing, said in a university press release.

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The overall program is a collaboration of the UTHSC College of Nursing, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the International Association of Sickle Cell Nurses and Professional Associates (IASCNAPA). Grant funds will go to researchers at UTHSC and St. Jude.

For the expanded program, researchers will adapt the evidenced-based curriculum of the pilot to a train-the-trainer model. This will include the development and production of trainers’ teaching materials that will be covered by the grant. Train-the-trainer content will focus on adult learning principles.

The expanded five-day boot camp, slated for next April 17–21 at UTHSC College of Nursing, in Memphis, will admit 20 registered nurses who provide care and develop nursing policy for SCD patients.

The program is open to bedside and clinic nurses, nurse managers and administrators, and nurses in academia with an SCD focus. The application deadline is Feb. 1, 2023 and space is limited. Meals, transportation, and lodging will be provided.

The nurse training curriculum will focus on theory and critical skills, and incorporate evidence-based practices, attitudes, skills, and values. It also will explore age-based SCD complications.

Nurses will learn best practices and critical analysis skills, and will be brought up to date on current evidence.

According to the boot camp’s developers, when it comes to care, nurses are on the “front lines.” They provide ongoing evaluations of SCD patients’ clinical status, which can include detecting complications like sepsis, acute chest syndrome, stroke, and multi-organ failure.

“Without SCD knowledge and clinical assessment skills, these symptoms are often not detected at a stage when medical interventions can prevent mortality,” Day said, adding, “With the lack of education and training in nursing schools and hospitals, the patient with SCD is very vulnerable to untoward consequences.”

One of the program’s more immediate goals is for it to become self-sustaining by 2024. Future plans also include seeking program credentialing through the American Nursing Credentialing Center, which now does not include SCD in its 183 certifications.

“When we think of chronic disease management, as health care providers, we must incorporate a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to care. This should be no different when managing sickle cell disease,” said Artangela Henry, UTHSC assistant professor and co-principal grant investigator.

“This train-the-trainer model will provide an opportunity to expand our reach of knowledgeable nurses caring for those living with sickle cell disease,” Henry said.

The program also will seek to “empower nurses” to become educators in sickle cell disease at their institutions.

“The Nursing Bootcamp will teach nurses to provide culturally sensitive, evidence-based care to people with SCD and will help standardize nursing treatment for people with SCD,” said Yvonne Carroll, director of patient services in the department of hematology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and grant co-principal investigator.

The biopharmaceutical company GBT, recently acquired by Pfizer, focuses its efforts on SCD treatment development and delivery, with therapies like Oxbryta (voxelotor).