In October 2017, the Jeanette M. Travis School of Nursing at Martin Methodist College (MMC) received a $93,000 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation. The grant helped fund a rural health initiative through which MMC nursing faculty and nursing students provide health screenings and wellness information in various rural and urban communities in Middle Tennessee.
As of January 2020, faculty and students have completed 2,012 health screenings at churches, United Methodist laity meetings, a senior center, county fairs/events, and schools. “We’ve encountered all age ranges from seniors over 60 to students ranging from Pre-K through high school,” said Dr. Patricia Catlin, DNP, FNP, assistant professor, Jeanette M. Travis School of Nursing. “As word spreads, we are finding more open doors and reaching out further for greater impact.”
All nursing students in junior and senior classes participate in multiple health screenings throughout their two years in MMC’s nursing program. Two 12-passenger vans, purchased in part with the Golden Cross Foundation grant money, transport students, faculty, and supplies to each event. During a typical health screening, participants move through five stations.
“They begin with a weigh-in to calculate Body Mass Index,” said Catlin. “Each screening also includes a blood pressure check, a finger stick to obtain glucose levels, and information gathering related to immunizations and age-appropriate screening recommendations.”
Information is recorded at each station and completed screening forms are given to participants to share with their doctors. Participants may also receive various health-related material created by MMC nursing students during their nursing course work as well as information on local health resources such as primary care offices, food banks, and mental health providers.
A January 2020 screening at HOPEtown – a nondenominational Christian outreach program for those in need in Marshall County – served 25 people. Many were homeless, mentally ill, illiterate, or poor. Some could not read, write, or sign their names.
Ranging in age from 5 to 75, many participants also had major trust issues and would not come near the nursing students. But by the end of the night, the students eliminated many of the barriers.
“Breaking through their own comfort zones,” said Catlin, “the students sat with attendees during worship and mingled at dinner. With repeated visits, I expect the trust to grow.”
Additional health screening events are planned for the Lynnville (Tennessee) Blackberry Festival, the Giles County Fair, and area churches such as Campbell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Pulaski, Tennessee.
In 2019, screenings took MMC students and faculty to the St. Thomas Medical Mission at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, a Marshall County festival, and Clifton United Methodist Church in Wayne County. The program’s ecumenical reach also provided health screenings to more than 800 students in six Marshall County schools.
“This work would be impossible without the hand of God,” said Catlin. “What started as a vision has grown rapidly. It has become an important part of our nursing program and I have witnessed changes in both our students and individuals attending health screenings.”
Student statements such as “These ‘van trips’ have made me aware of the impact I can make as an RN in my own hometown” and “I thought I wanted to work in a big hospital but now I am considering the health department or some type of community nursing” demonstrate the impact the screenings have MMC’s future nursing school graduates.
Likewise, health screening hosts and participants are touched by MMC’s presence. “Many are skeptical when I first contact them to set up a screening event,” said Catlin. “They may not understand what our goal is but when they learn we are coming free of charge to educate and reach out to people, they are intrigued. Each event ends with an outpouring of love and gratitude from those we have the opportunity to serve. It also brings several generations together.”
MMC Provost Dr. Judy Cheatham said, “A hallmark of John Wesley’s ministry was to take God’s love into the world. Wesley donned his robes and preached to the coalminers rather than expecting the coalminers to come to him. This ministry to rural Tennesseans represents a tangible way in which blessed people can be a blessing.”
MMC President Dr. Mark La Branche added, “We are most grateful for our partnership with the Golden Cross Foundation. The health of our institution, now in its 150th year, is dependent on the health of our communities. Making a social impact is not only a part of our Methodist DNA, but it is also critical to the sustainability of our institution and region.”
What started as a vision in 2017 continues to grow. MMC is currently focusing on improving its BSN program and campus clinic while investigating opening a free clinic for the community. The future appears to be healthy indeed!