Laurie Kennedy-Malone, Vanessa Igoe Apple, Samantha Harlow
L to R: Dr. Laurie Kennedy-Malone, Vanessa Igoe Apple, and Samantha Harlow chat inside the Jackson Library.

Dr. Laurie Kennedy-Malone is a nurse educator, not a web designer who builds PDF generators and authentication schemes.

In the summer of 2017, Kennedy-Malone needed a digital portal built to house what she thought would be a handful of online learning modules that she was helping to create for nurses. So, she went to where a lot of UNC Greensboro students go to find answers.

She headed to the Jackson Library on UNCG’s campus.

Kennedy-Malone, a professor in the School of Nursing, received a two-year, $1.54 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). One goal of the grant was to provide free continuing education for preceptor development. A preceptor is an experienced registered nurse who serves as a role model for a nursing student training for a career after graduation.

Kennedy-Malone immediately reached out to Richard Cox, digital technology consultant for the library. Their initial contact kicked off an extensive, two-year partnership between UNCG’s library and the School of Nursing on a cutting-edge project known as “Academic Practice Partnerships Today for Competent Practitioners Tomorrow.”

The project grew to the point where additional library staff members and nursing graduate students were added to a digital team that was learning as it went. The Nursing Continuing Education Portal launched in June, featuring 17 free online learning modules that have been approved by the North Carolina Nurses Association.

“This never would have been a reality as the way you’re looking at it now if it wasn’t for the collaboration with our library. This grant was about partnerships, and the partnerships that we formed were much more than I ever thought when we started.” – Dr. Laurie Kennedy-Malone

Professionals who had planned to attend a nursing or nurse practitioner conference that was cancelled because of the Coronavirus can earn free continuing education through UNCG’s digital portal. They can also work on professional development from home.

Kennedy-Malone initially believed her small team of UNCG nursing faculty members and alumni would produce five online learning modules after receiving a HRSA Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant. The modules – which are each worth one-credit hour and take about an hour to complete – covered such topics as deprescribing medication and addressing opioid abuse.

However, the number of modules quickly grew after Kennedy-Malone received an additional $145,000 from HRSA to produce content to teach nurses about mental health in adult and older patients. As a result, the digital portal also expanded.

Dr. Laurie Kennedy-Malone, Samantha Harlow, Vanessa Igoe Apple“This is the only thing we’ve done like this,” Cox said. “It was a good time for doing this because it is based on work we were already starting to do for internal use. Once Laurie talked to me, I was like ‘This actually sounds very similar to something we’re already looking at doing for our library tutorials.’”

Rather than starting from scratch, the digital team based the Nursing Continuing Education Portal on a digital portal that UNCG had already created to house library tutorials. In a way, the library staff was able to use the nursing site as a test to work out any issues with its internal site.

A group of nursing graduate students were brought in to help speed up the project. They were trained on how to add content to the digital portal. Kennedy-Malone said that funding from the HRSA grant supported the work of graduate assistants to participate in these projects.

“We came up with the idea of bringing in the grad students to keep the digital portal up to date and for it to move quicker with all the stuff that had to go in there,” said Samantha Harlow, a UNCG assistant professor and an online learning librarian who was a part of the digital team. “They were a big part of putting content in.”

One of the main features of the digital portal is a PDF generator built by Vanessa Igoe Apple, a web applications specialist for the library. After a student completes one of the modules, the portal creates an official certificate with Kennedy-Malone’s signature on it. Students can then print the certificate or save it as a PDF to verify they earned credit for continuing education.

“For me, this was just a really rewarding project to work on,” Apple said. “I originally was a biology person, and then working with the nursing field and the collaboration between Sam, Richard, Laurie, and the grad students, it took a lot of different specialized knowledge to get it done.”

Visit the following link to access the continuing education modules.

Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing

Photography by Martin W. KaneUniversity Communications