Creating a Healthy World

Nan Gaylord speaks to a patient at the Vine School Health Center, a place where Knox County school children receive comprehensive health care.

By Kara Clark
Photos courtesy of UT Knoxville Nursing

Inside the Walls of Vine

During the past 25 years, Nan Gaylord has witnessed just about everything in the waiting room at Knoxville’s Vine School Health Center, which is normally packed with children suffering from stomach aches to ear pain.

Gaylord, who is also the founder and director of the center, has made it her life’s mission to provide each child who walks through the door with quality comprehensive collaborative care.

The Vine School Health Center, a partnership between UT Knoxville’s College of Nursing and Knox County Schools, aids in providing primary care to children who have difficulty accessing health care. The clinic’s successful innovative model of health-care delivery is a cost-effective and creative solution that helps remove barriers to health-care access by being present in the community.

A middle aged woman stands outside the entrance to the Vine School Health Center
Nan Gaylord

Gaylord was asked to collaborate with the school district to develop the clinic after her work with a similar project in Colorado. In 1995, the center opened its doors for services in the community. The goal was simple: make a difference in children’s lives.

“Not long ago, a young girl visited Vine School Health Center after being referred to us by an outside provider,” says Gaylord. “The child was suffering from encopresis and enuresis (lack of bowel and bladder control) at 8 years of age. She had seen multiple providers from across the state that could not figure out what was causing the issue. One provider encouraged her to seek out our clinic’s mental health services.”

This referral would help the child to get better.

“Once we saw the child on the mental health side, we referred her to a nurse practitioner at Vine,” says Rachel Ross, a licensed clinical social worker at the center. “We were able to work together to solve not only this patient’s GI issues but her mental-health issues as well. What the family spent over a year trying to solve with other health-care providers, we were able to solve quickly through interprofessional collaboration. The parents attribute the success to astute listening by the team at Vine and are now able to move forward with enjoying their life with their healthy daughter.”

This is just one example of the thousands of families positively affected by the care from Gaylord’s team at the Vine School Health Center. Today, the center is thriving. It has expanded its services to 12 additional schools through telehealth and mental-health services. Its doors stayed open to serve families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“None of this would be possible without Dr. Gaylord’s leadership,” says Ross.

Promoting Healthy Communities

A little Black girl dressed as a nurse poses for a photo with a real-life nurse, a middle aged white woman in a colorful hallway
Nan Gaylord with a future nurse.

Gaylord, a nationally renowned scholar in pediatric nursing, has been recognized for her achievements with the highest international honor—being named a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She also holds recognition as a fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the highest national honor for nurse practitioners in the U.S.

In 2015, the college opened the Center for Nursing Practice under Gaylord’s leadership. The vision of the center is to promote the health of Tennessee communities through access to care; to support the expansion of nurse-managed clinics, community outreach and collaboration; and to provide quality education to nurses, health-care professionals and nurse leaders in Tennessee and beyond.

“The Center for Nursing Practice has helped to advance nursing education, practice and research across the state,” says Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the College of Nursing and the Sara Rosenbalm Croley Endowed Dean’s Chair.

Four years later, Gaylord was selected to serve the college as its inaugural associate dean for practice and global affairs. In this role, she helps to engage with partners at the community, regional, national and international level to identify faculty practice opportunities and clinical education experiences for students.

9,000 Miles

The National Academy of Medicine’s report “The Future of Nursing 2020–2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity” outlines recommendations for the nursing profession to create a culture of health and reduce health disparities.

“We can organize our teaching, research and service responsibilities to educate students on the social determinants of health, what caring really means and how to improve the health of the world,” says Gaylord.

In an effort to educate students, Gaylord laid the groundwork for a partnership between the college and nurses in central Kenya.

Supported by a generous gift from Poppy Buchanan and the late Richard Buchanan, a partnership was established between the college and the Waka Training Institute and Hospitalin Nyeri, Kenya. Gaylord, along with Susan Hébert, the college’s director of simulation, and Virginia Fowler, coordinator for the Center for Nursing Practice, traveled more than 9,000 miles to Kenya in November 2019 to develop collaborative relationships with Waka and the Samaria Health Center, a nurse-led clinic in Ndathi, Kenya.

“It was an exploratory visit to see how we could best work together,” says Gaylord.

Five nurses pose for a photo in a classroom in Kenya
Susan Hébert, Nan Gaylord and Virginia Fowler developed a collaborative relationship with WAKA School of Nursing in Nyeri, Kenya.

While in Kenya, the UT Knoxville team trained nurse midwives and physicians from the region in newborn resuscitation through the Helping Babies Breathe program.

“It was an amazing opportunity for us as instructors in the hospital learning environment to see how eager they were to learn,” Gaylord says.

COVID-19 put plans in Kenya on hold throughout 2020. Gaylord hopes to visit Kenya again during the summer of 2022 to solidify arrangements for the partnership. Through the collaboration, UT Knoxville nursing students will gain firsthand knowledge of healthcare issues around the world, while WAKA faculty will learn best practices in simulation and student learning.

“We want to use this opportunity to provide our students with experiential learning and clinical service.”

The World Is a Better Place

Gaylord is continuing to juggle her roles within the college and in the community. She has no plans of slowing down and wants to carry on her work to advance care for underserved populations near and far.

“In every way, Dr. Gaylord demonstrates exemplary service to the university, its students, this community, the state and the world,” says Niederhauser. “Her impact in providing comprehensive health care is enormous. She has and is continuing to provide quality health care and training for the next generation of registered nurses and advanced practice nurses.”

Nan Gaylord converses with employees at the Vine School Health Center
Nan Gaylord is nationally renowned for her work in pediatric nursing.

In June 2021, Gaylord—in partnership with Knoxville Community Development Corporation—was awarded a grant from Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee to help provide primary care to residents of Guy B. Love Towers, a public-housing community serving seniors and disabled and near-elderly individuals.

The residents’ health-care needs are complicated. They frequently miss primary care appointments due to lack of transportation and instead use emergency medical services for care. Gaylord and her team will work to implement an innovative model of health-care delivery that is cost effective to the residents.

Reflecting on her life’s work, Gaylord says, “Each individual we serve in any community has increased opportunity for success as we intervene into health concerns early and reinforce positive health habits that influence one’s health throughout life. The world is a better place for each individual we care for.”