The University of Texas at Tyler has partnered with the Tyler Family Circle of Care for a health literacy project targeting parents of young children, Dr. Ross Sherman, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced.

The pilot evidence-based practice study, which began this semester, will concentrate on developing or expanding parents’ understanding of fever, its symptoms and treatment. The study also will examine the effects of fever education on reducing physician office calls, avoiding emergency room visits and saving heath care dollars.

Dr. Kouider Mokhtari, Anderson-Vukelja-Wright Endowed Professor within the UT Tyler School of Education, and Dr. Becky Risinger, Tyler Family Circle of Care medical director, initiated the study. Other research team members include Dr. Pam Martin, UT Tyler College of Nursing and Health Sciences associate dean; Dr. Colleen Marzilli, UT Tyler assistant professor; Nancy Ballard and Christy Gipson, UT Tyler clinical instructors; and Kay Coleman, Tyler Family Circle of Care office manager.

“The overall purpose of this study is to give parents the tools to understand and treat fever at home with appropriate medications and doses. We hope that by empowering parents to better understand and treat fever on their own, it will help reduce unnecessary physician office calls, avoid ER visits and save healthcare dollars,” said Mokhtari, who actively engages in research and service initiatives aimed at enhancing literacy within the Tyler community.

Study participants consist of 100 randomly selected parents of children from zero to six months of age at the Family Circle of Care on North Broadway Avenue in Tyler, which was chosen for this study because the visit frequency is both high and predictable in the age group. Half of the participants receive additional education during wellness visits pertaining to understanding and managing fever at home. The other half participate in regular wellness visits without the extra fever education.

“When teaching parents about fever at the Tyler Family Circle of Care clinic during their scheduled visits, we use various pedagogical strategies including verbal explanations, demonstrations, hands-on activities and teach back procedures,” said Gipson, who teaches UT Tyler community nursing courses involving evidence-based practice. “Patient teaching is an important skill for nurses to have as they enter the workforce.”

The project also acts as a service-learning initiative, as UT Tyler nursing students lead the education-training visits and work alongside both UT Tyler faculty in the School of Nursing within the college and Tyler Family Circle of Care staff involved with the study.

“Getting to participate in this research study has been great for my education,” said UT Tyler student participant Abbie Money, of Midlothian. “After taking a research class in Level 2, I enjoyed seeing how research and evidence-based practice is truly executed. Being hands on with the material and with the patients is great for me to practice my patient interaction and teaching.

“It puts into perspective how much work goes in to planning and implementing a study for EBP, so it makes me feel more inclined to watch for improved practice that fellow healthcare professionals are spending time and effort studying.”

To facilitate access to fever education materials, the clinic, with UT Tyler’s assistance, also will provide parents with appropriate fever-related resources such as videos, posters, brochures, flyers and electronic apps.

“Fever can be scary for all parents,” Risinger said. “We hope to demystify fever and determine the best way to effectively teach parents. Sometimes we think we are doing a good job of communicating medical information, but we are not. This study will also help us to do a better job of learning how to deliver needed information in the most effective way.”

For more information, contact Mokhtari at 903-566-7177 or kmokhtari@uttyler.edu or Gipson at 903-566-7020 or cgipson@uttyler.edu.

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