The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND program has provided far reaching opportunities for trainees to gain expertise in family-centered care, to become familiar with community resources, and to develop an interprofessional problem solving mindset.
The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND prepares graduate-level health professionals in 15 disciplines to assume leadership roles to serve children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (NDRD). The program focuses on preparing health professionals to assume leadership roles and to develop interprofessional team skills, advanced clinical skills, and research skills, in order to meet the complex needs of children with NDRD.
The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (VCL) is directed by Tyler Reimschisel, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, director of the Division of Developmental Medicine and the Center for Child Development. It includes faculty and trainees from Belmont University, East Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College, Milligan College, Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University, as well as affiliates from Family Voices of Tennessee and The Arc of Washington County.
LEND programs are interdisciplinary leadership training programs federally funded through HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. There are 52 LEND programs located in 44 U.S. states, with an additional 6 states and 3 territories reached through program partnerships. Collectively, they form a national network that shares information and resources and maximizes their impact. They work together to address national issues of importance to children with special health care needs and their families, to exchange best practices, and to develop shared products.
The VCL Trainee Experience
Our LEND core curriculum provides rigorous leadership training and an intensive 24-week core series on topics ranging from life course to ethics, from specific diagnoses to medical home, from newborn screening to policy. The core curriculum and leadership seminars have reinforced the importance of interprofessional and family-centered care within the health care setting. These learning experiences have aided our understanding of our role as part of a health care team and have helped expand our knowledge of the roles of other professionals we work alongside.
In an effort to provide hands-on experience as we try to understand the complexities of the health care system, our program arranged for its trainees to take part in a care navigation experience. After being paired with a family, our trainees followed up with parents to inquire about questions or barriers they were experiencing in regards to follow-up recommendations.
Marcos Colón, a developmental pediatrics fellow described his experience in this differing role as follows: “It was extremely satisfying and fulfilling to help this young family and their child obtain the services they needed. How to obtain the services was not as easy as I once thought. I am often the one giving out those recommendations, with little knowledge of what happens between our visits other than the family’s word of mouth. They typically tell me the frustrations and hardships they have gone through to establish follow-ups and evaluations. To see the process unfold and be a part of it was enlightening, to say the least. It was also nice to just talk to real people with real problems in an unofficial capacity from my usual line of work. It was interesting to hear the mother talk about issues she usually wouldn’t divulge in the examination room and to relate to the experiences.”
By helping families navigate through the health care system, trainees were able to get a better appreciation for some of the struggles families may go through to obtain the services they need.
Trainees have opportunities to visit community agencies to develop an understanding of resources available to parents and children within the community. In October, a few trainees visited the Regional Intervention Program in Nashville. This program is designed to teach effective parenting strategies to improve a child’s behavior and is offered free of charge.
Another community agency that trainees visited was the Junior League Family Resource Center in the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. This center provides educational and resource information to families in order to help them better understand their child’s health condition and learn about available resources in their area.
Another activity that aided trainees’ understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders and interprofessional care was observing in a clinic with a health care professional in an area of expertise different than the trainee’s area of study. Observing a profession I was unfamiliar with helped me further understand the role of a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and allowed me to encounter children with disorders with which I was unfamiliar. It also allowed me to gain experience seeing typical versus atypical development.
Overall, the Vanderbilt Consortium LEND program’s involvement throughout the community and with other health care professionals has helped trainees cultivate an understanding of interprofessional collaboration. Through leadership training, exploring community resources, and building lasting professional relationships, the LEND program is empowering trainees to make a lasting impact on patients and health care in the future.
Megan Cohea is a student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee.