Improving Our Communities
Making a Difference Outside Hospital Walls
As the state’s children’s hospital, we care for patients in all 100 counties – some of whom never walk through our doors. We do this through partnerships with community care providers, schools and patient advocacy groups, all to expand access to care. Here are just two stories of our outreach and advocacy efforts.
Outreach that expands access to care across the state.
Supporting the people our students count on.
Across North Carolina, there is a shortage of school nurses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a nurse-to-student ratio of 1:750. In North Carolina, one school nurse serves an average of 1,112 students. This means that schools are often working with limited resources, which is challenging for students requiring ongoing care and monitoring, like those with diabetes.
Nina Jain, MD, and others in the division of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes recently partnered with Wake and Orange County schools on a lecture series for nurses. Through a grant, we’ve also provided ketone test kits for 50 schools with the most need.
“A lot of kids aren’t coming to school with their necessary supplies, making it harder for nurses to take care of them,” Dr. Jain said. “Simply having a few snacks and test kits on hand can go a long way in keeping a child out of crisis.”
“Children with diabetes are at a greater risk for complications, and it’s important that school nurses and teachers can recognize warning signs and know what to do to help.”
–Nina Jain, MD
“By providing families with a navigator who can greet them and explain things in their own language, we aim to make the whole care experience easier and more streamlined.”
From left to right, Carolina Conexiones navigator student leaders Nalini Peres-da-Silva and Holly Ozgun.
Navigators meet with families and guide them through the check-in and check-out process, as well as assist them with other nonmedical needs they have while at the hospital. During the actual medical visit, a member of the formal medical interpreter group at UNC joins the visit and interprets alongside the physicians and nurses providing care.
Since its founding last year, Carolina Conexiones has grown to include 30 to 50 volunteer navigators assisting an average of 120 families per month, with hopes of expanding to serve more families in the near future. The effort received initial support from UNC’s Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement and is currently supported by Carolina For The Kids Foundation.
Imagine coming to an unfamiliar place where every instruction was in a language other than your own. For many families visiting N.C. Children’s Hospital, this is the case. And, it’s why Kori Flower, MD, and her team, including Volunteer Services and Interpreter Services, started Carolina Conexiones, a new bilingual volunteer patient navigation program for the UNC Children’s specialty clinics. Through the program, Spanish-speaking volunteers assist families with nonmedical needs and wayfinding to enhance their care and overall experience.
“This program helps us to meet our families where they are,” said Dr. Flower. “Many of our patients travel hours to be here and have multiple appointments scheduled.
Dr. Jain and her team also spoke at North Carolina's Annual School Nurse Conference last year, where they discussed new technology for school-aged children with diabetes.
“Some of the devices that children and teens use to monitor their diabetes can be mistaken for phones,” Dr. Jain said. “It’s important that nurses, teachers and other school administrators are aware of the tech that’s out there and how it’s being used.”
Thanks to a grant, Dr. Jain and her team were able to provide more than 200 diabetes care kits for nurses at the conference. The kits contained things like a blood sugar reference guide, glucose tablets, practice glucagon kits and snacks for students with low insulin. Dr. Jain said she hopes to provide more nurses across the state with kits and additional resources to care for students managing diabetes.
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