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Cherokee Health Systems and the University of Tennessee Celebrate its Academic and Practice Partnership

Cherokee Health Systems and the University of Tennessee, College of Nursing are celebrating the success of their Transforming RN Roles in Community-Based Integrated Primary Care through Academic Practice Partnership (TRIP) program as the organizations close out the final year of their grant-based partnership.

Four years ago, the college was awarded a $2.6 million dollar grant by the US Health Resources and Services Administration to create the TRIP program. The college partnered with Cherokee Health Systems to train students and practicing RNs to work as members of interprofessional teams caring for rural and underserved populations in community-based primary care settings. The TRIP program aimed at improving the health and access to care for diverse populations in rural and underserved settings in the East Tennessee region.

“Partnering with UT over the past four years has been an exceptional experience. We’re grateful to pour into the next generation of healthcare workers, and we’re thankful that this opportunity allowed our staff to grow in their careers. Our work will continue well into the future as we build on the partnership’s momentum and prepare nursing students and RNs to practice at the full scope of their license,” said Parinda Khatri, Cherokee Health Systems’ Chief Executive Officer .

Cherokee Health Systems and the college achieved many accomplishments together throughout their partnership; one monumental moment includes winning the prestigious American Association of Colleges of Nursing Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award in 2021.

“The partnership is a win for both Cherokee and the college,” said Sandy Mixer, project director and associate professor at the college. “While being mentored by Cherokee’s RNs, students learn holistic integrated primary and mental health care in collaboration with interprofessional teams. Cherokee and faculty nurses share leadership, expertise, and collegiality which was critical to successfully providing nursing care and education during the pandemic. The college and Cherokee share a common mission and we are delighted to continue this impactful work.”

Approximately 25 Cherokee Health Systems’ RN preceptors went through training, taught and mentored UT’s students. Over 52 UT nursing students have completed the TRIP program. Cherokee Health Systems’ Devin Hammonds, RN, participated in the TRIP program and now works full time at Cherokee Health Systems’ Center City health center.

“The TRIP program has been instrumental in my career! As a TRIP student, I had the unique opportunity of learning about integrated primary care and working with underserved populations through my clinical experiences at Cherokee Health Systems. I feel honored that I get to care for my patients who are often left behind or overlooked due to their social determinants of health. The TRIP grant paved the way for me to do what I love,” said Hammonds.

Even though the grant is coming to an end, the work between the two organizations is sustained going forward. UT senior nursing students will continue with clinical placements at Cherokee Health Systems every fall and spring semester.

CONTACT: Kara Clark Cardwell (kmclark2@utk.edu, 865-974-9498)