Vol. 12 No. 9 - April, 2010

Graduate School of Nursing helps special athletes stay healthy

Robert Carlin Photography
GSN Dean Paulette Seymour Route performing a health screening at the recent Health Athletes initiative as part of the Special Olympics 2010 Winter Games in Worcester.

Among hundreds of volunteers at the recent Special Olympics of Massachusetts (SOMA) Winter Games was a group of students and faculty from the Graduate School of Nursing (GSN). The GSN contingent was there to provide health screenings at the Healthy Athletes health fair, held at Mechanics Hall in Worcester as part of the three-day games. Dedicated to improving health care access and quality for individuals with intellectual disabilities, the Healthy Athletes initiative provides health services and education to Special Olympics athletes and trains health care professionals to support the initiative.

Robert Carlin Photography
GSN students and faculty performed health screenings that included blood pressure, BMI, hearing, vision, bone density and flexibility and then referred the athletes to the appropriate specialists for follow-up.

The GSN expanded its role in the UMass Worcester and SOMA affiliation established in 2008 by partnering to evaluate a triage pilot project designed to make the health fair more focused and beneficial for attendees. Coordinated by Kathleen Miller, EdD, GSN associate dean for advanced practice programs and director of the Doctor of Nursing Program, and Paulette Seymour Route, PhD, dean of the GSN, the pilot project explores the use of a systematic model that measures health status indicators (including body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, bone density, hearing, vision and flexibility) and then refers individuals to other health care specialists at the fair who can address potential medical issues flagged in the screening results. For example, an individual with a high BMI indicating obesity would be referred to a nutritionist for follow up and further evaluation. “With feedback from athletes and families, we will continue to evaluate and develop the most worthwhile health promotion methods,” said Dr. Miller.


Dr. Seymour Route will receive additional training for health care providers at the Special Olympics USA National Games in Nebraska in July. Noting that health promotion and health assessment are central to nursing, she said, “Volunteering at the Special Olympics helps students learn how to respectfully interact and communicate with all kinds of people, develop cultural sensitivity and gain a deeper understanding of the unique health care needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.”

GSN participants in the Healthy Athletes Screenings at the 2010 SOMA Winter Games

Jackie Bergeron, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student
Sarah Doherty, Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) Year 3 student
Joy Haidle, GEP Year 2 student
Toy Lim, GEP Year 1 student
Lisa Malloy, GEP Year 3 student
Kathleen Miller, associate dean for advanced practice
Phyllis Muthee, GEP Year 1 student
Adrian Muzzy, GEP Year 1 student
Lisa Ogawa, director of the Nurse Educator Program
Paulette Seymour Route, dean
Robin Somers, DNP student
(Dr. Miller’s 17-year-old son Christopher Miller also assisted.)