WKU offers nursing program on farmers’ health

Monica Brown

In an attempt to better understand the mental health issues suffered by those in the agriculture business, WKU is offering a new nursing program for any nurse in the state of Kentucky.

The new continuing education program, Nursing Responses to Mental Health Issues of Agricultural Populations, is focused on training nurses to identify sources and warning signs of mental issues and to develop successful interventions with farmers and their families. 

Eve Main, associate professor in the School of Nursing and coordinator of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, said the continuing education program’s main goals are to identify sources of stress associated with farming, recognize the unique manifestations of stress, identify assessment tools and identify nursing interventions to assist the farmer and the family deal with mental health issues.

“Farmers are at risk for serious health issues, including anxiety, depression and suicide,” the WKU nursing website explains. 

Main said farmers in rural areas, specifically in Kentucky, undergo a lot of stress from their jobs. Stress can accumulate from their own self-reliance within their work, how much they work, regulations set by the government and how much control weather has on their work. 

One major factor concerns health insurance. Since more farmers work independently, they have difficulty getting health insurance, and other family members are forced to acquire outside jobs to receive health insurance. 

WKU’s new one-hour program is designed to teach nurses how to take care of these situations, said Vivian McClellan, the corporate director of education and development at the Commonwealth Health Corporation in Bowling Green.

 “This relevant, well-designed interactive program offers evidence-based strategies for nurses,” McClellan said. “The videos of the farmers are powerful and capture a realistic picture of the stress associated with farming.” 

Main said the online class will use video clips made by experts within the nursing field as well as other techniques to engage students. 

“We have about 40 regular nurses look at this course, and about 95 percent of them want to change their practice and use the material presented in the class,” Main said. “We try to make it engaging, and we are trying to use a new model to deliver a message.”