As a mother of three children who have asthma, Felesia Bowen, PhD, RN, APN-BC, knows with proper treatment and monitoring, this health problem can be managed with minimal interference to ones life.
As a nurse practitioner working with at-risk children in the Newark, N.J., area, Bowen also knows not every family has the advantages she enjoys.
Many of the underprivileged children she has seen over the years predominantly African-American and Latino, who are disproportionately affected by asthma live in unsanitary conditions that are breeding grounds for asthma. Having little or no money to pay for, or even access to, the proper care only makes matters worse.
Bowen became determined to make a difference after a patient she was scheduled to see at an asthma care clinic four years ago never arrived because his mother had other appointments. Another appointment was scheduled, but it was too late.
The clinic was anticipating seeing him on Friday, and Thursday night he had a massive asthma attack, and he was basically dead in his home, Bowen said. That just shook me to my bones. I said, Weve got to find a way to get these kids specialty care.Mary Jane Linnehan, RN
From that tragedy sprang hope for many other Newark children.
Bowen, assistant professor and director of the Center for Urban Youth and Families at Rutgers Universitys School of Nursing, became one of 12 nurses in the country to be named a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation faculty nurse scholar. With the recognition, Bowen received a three-year, $350,000 grant she is using on a study to partner with Perth Amboys Jewish Renaissance Medical Centers school-based clinics to establish Newarks first community-based primary care asthma center with funding support from the Hearst Foundations.
Using a mobile van supplied by Jewish Renaissance, Bowen and a medical technician will visit schools in some of Newarks most at-risk areas for asthma beginning in January. In addition to giving children easy access to care and scheduling follow-up appointments, visits to some childrens homes
to make environmental assessments will be conducted.
Based on our findings, we will develop a treatment plan for the home, Bowen said.
The studys goal is to show the difference that community-based asthma care can make with the hope it will lead to increased funding for such efforts.
Many of the details for Bowens study were based on her conversations with Mary Jane Linnehan, MSN, MPH, RN, CPNP. For the past 16 years, Linnehan has been the clinical director of Jewish Renaissances Newark School Based Health Centers, and in recent years she has discussed with Bowen the obstacles faced by many of her young patients, including the boy who died. A familys financial situation often plays a key role.
The asthma specialist clinic might be on the other side of town for them, and if they have three children they have to take, sometimes three bus tickets is just too much for the week, Linnehan said. Therefore, if its between food and a bus ticket, theyre going to choose the food for that week and miss the appointment.
The mobile van, which not only will serve students in the schools visited but also other children in the surrounding community in need of care, eliminates that barrier. Linnehan said having a nurse practitioner such as Bowen providing direct care is an ideal situation.
Asthma is such a preventable disease such a lifestyle disease which entails so much counseling and behavioral change, and thats what nurses specialize in, Linnehan said. So its a really nice fit having a nurse practitioner providing this kind of specialty care.
Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.