Impacting Community Health

UTK nurses employ diverse health strategies for Red Bird Mission communities

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It only took one trip to Appalachia to affect Jennifer Reagan.

“I came here in high school and it changed my life,” says the University of Tennessee-Knoxville nursing student. “I’ve been very service oriented ever since.”
Jennifer is one of six nursing students at Red Bird Mission this week doing just that: serving others.

They have worked on the walking track at the school, performed hearing and BMI tests for students at the school, rode along with Meals on Wheels drivers, and helped in the Manchester clinic. The trip culminated in a public health fair.

“When I heard they were coming this year, I jumped at the chance,” Jennifer said. “I even wrote an essay about it to show how serious I was about coming.”

Working in a rural setting opened Jennifer’s eyes to some differences in care.

“It struck me how well everyone knows each other here,” she said. “The staff have known most of the people throughout their lifetime.

“In a city, you give someone healthy life information, and you never know what happens with the info. Here, you can see somebody, you can help them be healthier and then you can see the outcome.”

At the public health fair, the students tested blood pressure and bone density,
Jennifer already has a degree in exercise physiology but wanted to do things with a more holistic approach that nurses have.

Jennifer Reagan takes the blood pressure of another nursing student during the public health fair.

“As I went on the ride-along, I saw how hard it was for people to exercise,” she said. “In town, you have sidewalks to use, but here you can’t walk along the road because it’s dangerous.

“There’s also danger for people who are a fall risk at their homes. The land is so uneven that walking to the road can lead to a serious fall.”

Having a safe place to walk is why the group spent time working at the walking track at the school’s track.

“We spent time putting up health information on signs along the track,” said Robin Hicks, who led the trip with the UTK nursing program. “We also marked the distances so that people can keep up with their fitness goals.”

In addition to the track at the school, which the students marked in two different colors for separate length circuits, they checked records to see if all the Red Bird students’ immunization records were up to date.

While here, the students made four instructional videos for RBCS students on how to be healthy. The topics and age group targeted were handwashing (kindergarten through 4th grade), masks and CDC recommendations (5th-6th), skin care (7th-8th) and stress and anxiety (9th-12th). Masks and sunscreen were handed out as well.

For more information on this or other Red Bird Mission Outreach programs, please call 598-0520, or send an email to To support the program, click the donation link on our website and choose “Community Aid” under “I want to support”. You can also call 606-598-3155 for information about other Red Bird Mission ministries.

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