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WKU offering program for nurses in agricultural areas

Online course helps nurses serve mental health needs of farmers

Farming can be an extremely rewarding occupation, but it can also be a highly stressful job. Many farmers are at risk for numerous health problems, including mental health issues, depression and increased risk of suicide. With over 85,000 small family farms throughout Kentucky, it is vital for healthcare professionals to understand the risks farmers face when crops and livestock fail, and stress takes its toll.

Farmers experience one of the highest suicide rates of any industry, and there is growing evidence that those involved in farming are at higher risk of developing mental health problems.

WKU now offers an online continuing education program, “Nursing Responses to Mental Health Issues of Agricultural Populations,” to serve the mental health needs of farmers. The course teaches nurses how to identify sources of stress, recognize the manifestations of stress and evaluate the mental health status of farmers. Nurses receive one continuing education unit (CEU) and develop skills nurses need to help farmers decrease, modify or eliminate stress that leads to serious mental health issues.

Susan Jones, Professor Emerita in WKU’s School of Nursing and the Institute for Rural Health, said this type of course is needed in any farming area.

“When crops and livestock fail, the stress often becomes unbearable,” Jones said. “Nurses can make a positive impact on the mental health of farmers if they are trained to identify those who are at risk and help them deal with their issues.”

The program was developed by WKU School of Nursing faculty, including Jones, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF; Eve Main, DNP, ARNP-BC; and Dawn Wright, PhD, PMNNP-BC, CNE. It was funded in part by CDC/NIOSH grant. Staff from the Division of Extended Learning & Outreach (DELO) also provided instructional design, marketing and participant enrollment support through Distance Learning, DELO marketing and Lifelong Learning.

Vivian McClellan, Corporate Director of Education and Development at Commonwealth Health Corporation, said this program offers high-quality instruction for nurses in agricultural areas.

“This interactive CE program is relevant, well-designed, and needed,” said McClellan, RN, MSN. “The program offers evidence-based strategies for health care professionals when caring for this occupational group.”

The fee for the one-hour online program is $7, and it is available anytime. To register for this course, visit http://www.wku.edu/lp/nursing-ce-ag.php.

Contact: Cindy Ehresman, (270) 745-1910 or cindy.ehresman@wku.edu

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