Early Detection matters; just ask Mavvy Baker. Mavanea Baker is only 13 years old, but she already knows the benefits of early childhood vision screenings. In preschool Mavvy had her eyes checked as part of a routine vision screening of everyone in her class. The screening indicated that she was going blind in her left eye. Because this issue was detected so early in its progression, medical professionals were able to reverse some of the damage and, with glasses, improve Mavvy’s vision in both of her eyes.
Mavvy’s mother is a huge advocate for these early screenings through her work in educating healthcare professionals. Dr. Gennifer Baker, Mavvy’s mom, is assistant professor of nursing at UT Southern in Pulaski, TN. In the state of Tennessee, all students in kindergarten, second, fourth, sixth, and eighth grade are screened for basic health factors: vision, hearing, blood pressure, height, and weight. Such wide-scale screening engages various groups across a community, including faculty and students in the Jeanette M. Travis School of Nursing and Health Sciences, who not only contribute to these efforts, but, in turn, provide nursing students with hands-on experiences.
In a typical school visit, nursing students usually check an average of 150-200 students. “You learn more than how to accurately read a blood pressure on these trips. Our UT Southern students are able to put into practice what they have learned regarding bedside manner, how to get a room quiet and tune out distractions when they need to hear, and how to communicate vital health information and directions with different patients, in this case kids,” said Dr. Baker.
Dr. Baker recently accompanied a group of junior nursing students to a Marshall County school for a routine screening. “No parent wants to fail their child, but children don’t always know how to tell you that they can’t see perfectly. The vision deficit is normal to them, and they don’t know any different. Parents may not have extra time during the work week to have their kids screened for things that they don’t even know are wrong,” added Dr. Baker. That is where these screenings come in.
“Being around young children is one of my favorite things. Participating in health screenings at different elementary schools has brought me so much joy because of the energy and smile each child has shared with us,” said Mattie Ray Beckman, junior nursing student at UT Southern. “The children were just as excited to see us as we were to see them! Knowing that our assessments affected a child’s life during our first semester gives me hope for our future as nurses. The impact we had on these children’s lives during those visits will stay with me forever and give me motivation to keep striving in this career.”
On one particular visit this fall, a nursing student indicated to Dr. Baker that, according to the screening, a child was not meeting the standard for 20/20 vision. Dr. Baker came over to readminister the test to verify it was performed correctly. After the screening was confirmed by Dr. Baker, the child was found to have profound vision deficits in both eyes. Because of this early detection, the child and family were able to see a medical professional quickly and are receiving the help they need.
Veronica Davenport, Coordinator of Coordinated School Health for Marshall County, expressed her appreciation of the UT Southern Nursing Students: “The nursing students were the first line in detecting issues with these students and are doing a very important job for us! They were instrumental in changing the rest of this child’s life.” Every child deserves to see to the best of their ability. Early screenings help every child avoid preventable health conditions like vision issues. Just ask Mavvy Baker and her mother! UT Southern nursing faculty and students are honored to be part of this effort here in our region.
Listed from left to right are Camron Burks, Tanner Ledbetter, Libby Quick, Kiera Odell, Anna Blair Bigger, Mattie Ray Beckman, Molly Raby, Anna Story, McCall Holyoak
The University of Tennessee Southern is an institution of higher education, originally formed under the name Martin Methodist College and founded in 1870. Offering associate, baccalaureate, and graduate degrees, UTS is located on an historic campus in Pulaski, among the beautiful rolling hills of southern Middle Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Southern is convenient to both Nashville (70 miles north) and Huntsville, Alabama (40 miles south).