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Vanderbilt University recently announced the launch of a new interprofessional pilot project involving the School of Nursing, Law School, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center which will help older adults in need of advance care plans and power of attorney documents get them faster and free of charge.

The Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic project uses a team of Vanderbilt nursing and law students to introduce the challenging topic of advance care directives to patients at the Vanderbilt Senior Care Clinic. Student teams meet with seniors at the clinic before or after patients’ medical appointments to provide information and assistance in creating the medical and legal documents needed to assure patients’ wishes are known and carried out in the future.

Carrie Plummer, School of Nursing Assistant Professor and creator of the program, tells News.Vanderbilt.edu, “A 2017 study found that less than a third of adult Tennesseans surveyed reported having an advance directive or power of attorney paperwork completed. At the same time, the majority of health care providers are not comfortable initiating discussions with their patients about end-of-life decisions and/or feel that they don’t have sufficient time to include these discussions in the primary care setting.”

Nursing students are participating in the pilot program as part of their yearlong Enhancing Community and Population Health course. Fourteen students designed and developed the program by reviewing best practices, researching evidence-based literature, conducting site visits, and creating a HIPAA-compliant database for patient data. They also underwent five weeks of training on clinical skills for patients and caregiver discussions on advance directives, power of attorney, health literacy and patient education, end-of-life care and difficult discussions, adult protective services and elder abuse, and Medicare 101.

The School of Nursing feels that this program is an aspect of nursing’s holistic model of care, to recognize and address patient’s other social and environmental needs outside of diagnosing and treating. To learn more about the pilot program between the Vanderbilt School of Nursing and Law School, visit here.

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