Better health care for people with intellectual disabilities

At Rush University College of Nursing, Chicago, Illinois, our pre-licensure programme is a generalist entry master's degree, with an emphasis on competencies put forward by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for the clinical nurse leader role.

To achieve their end-of-programme leadership capstones, students apply knowledge from their coursework and clinical experiences to develop evidence-based plans to improve the health outcomes for patient cohorts or populations.

Several participated in planning and carrying out specific aspects of ongoing efforts to improve the health and health care of people with intellectual disabilities.

For their capstones, graduating students participated in planning and carrying out efforts at:

  • Developing, auditing and reinforcing healthier menus at community residential sites.
  • Sustaining a healthier lifestyle using adaptive technologies at a community agency.
  • Addressing the feasibility of using social problem-solving training based on mobile technology in small community homes.
  • Evaluating care of patients with intellectual disabilities in an emergency department using mock tracers, developed by the Joint Commission International to track system processes and how teams work together to provide good quality patient-centred care.
  • Developing a resource binder on the good quality care of people with autism for staff on a psychiatric unit.

Providing these experiences, along with education, coaching and modelling in leadership in the experiences, can provide lessons on how to educate healthcare professionals so they can improve the health and health care of this population.

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About the author

Sarah Ailey is an associate professor in community, systems and mental health nursing, at Rush University College of Nursing, Chicago, Illinois. She is co-author of Specific standards of care for adults with intellectual disabilities in the April 2015 issue of Nursing Management.