On December 6, school nurses across Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to train with the region’s top healthcare experts without ever having to leave their office thanks to a new medical education program being offered by the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). The Project ECHO® for School Nurses webinar series is the second teleECHO™ clinic to be offered in WNC.
The first ECHO® series launched in November with a Type II diabetes clinic to support MAHEC’s rural family medicine fellows practicing in Haywood, Macon, Mitchell, Swain and Yancey counties. Upcoming sessions for these rural physicians will focus on a variety of topics including autoimmune diseases, sports medicine, Hepatitis C, and substance use disorders.
“This technology helps us bridge the distance between our rural fellows, share vital information, and build a supportive cohort,” shares Benjamin Gilmore, MD, MAHEC family physician and rural fellowship advisor. “These virtual clinics allow us to bring healthcare specialists to the doors of each fellow remotely.”
MAHEC is one of only two academic health centers in North Carolina offering these innovative trainings. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill facilitates a Project ECHO® on medication-assisted therapy in which MAHEC participates and provides perinatal substance use treatment expertise.
Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) is a lifelong learning and guided practice model developed at the University of New Mexico to reduce barriers to specialty care in rural areas. The hub-and-spokes training model brings together an interdisciplinary team of healthcare specialists at a learning hub to share information in real-time with area primary care providers via multi-site web conferencing.
The upcoming webinar series for school nurses will consist of hour-long modules on relevant topics including diabetes management, seizure disorders, hypertension, asthma, mental health, dermatology, motivational interviewing, and screening and referral for treatment. Nurses will have opportunities to explore and get guidance on actual patient cases.
“I’m excited that school nurses across our region can get the training they need to support the students who walk into their office every day,” shares Alice Elio, MSN, School Health Program Manager at MAHEC.
“Project ECHO® offers accessible opportunities for rural schools to benefit from healthcare experts in planning and providing care for students with special needs,” she explains.
This 10-part bi-weekly training is FREE or is available for $100 if continuing education credit is desired. To qualify for credit, nurses must attend at least 8 out of 10 sessions. Teaching faculty include Susan Alexander, MD, a MAHEC family physician, and Suzette LaRoche, MD, an epidemiologist and medical director of the Epilepsy Center at Mission Health in Asheville, NC.
Future MAHEC ECHO® series will address chronic pain management, mental health, and complex conditions. These trainings are being designed to support rural primary care providers including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, behavioral health specialists, and pharmacists.