UK College of Nursing professor honored for work with Kentucky's farmers

Deborah Reed talking to a farmer

Deborah Reed, PhD, MSPH, RN, FAAOHN, FAAN, was recently honored with the Edge Runner Award from the American Academy of Nursing for her work teaching farmers about occupational health, safety and disease prevention on farms. 

The Edge Runner Award recognizes nurse-designed models of care and interventions that impact cost, improve healthcare quality and enhance consumer satisfaction. Through its Edge Runner program, the academy is mobilizing its fellows, health leaders and partner organizations to recognize nurses who are leading the way with new ideas to transform the health system.

Using theater as a teaching tool

Reed designed the Farm Theater Dinner program to teach farmers about how the physical intensity of farm work can leave them with conditions such as arthritis, hearing loss, hypertension, skin cancer, cataracts and musculoskeletal disorders. Farmers are also at risk for non-fatal and fatal injuries and increased risk of suicide. More than 97 percent of America’s farms are still family owned and operated and are exempt from OSHA regulations; therefore, all attempts to implement health and safety precautions are dependent upon the farm families themselves.

Raised on a Kentucky farm 15 miles outside of Lexington, Reed understands farmers’ attitudes toward traditional forms of occupational safety education. She has conducted community-based research on Kentucky’s farms for more than 25 years, and her research has shown farmers aren’t persuaded by lectures and pamphlets and don’t have time in their demanding work schedule to attend educational meetings.

“What we are trying to do with these plays is empower the local community to change their work behaviors in a way that’s acceptable within the community,” Reed said.

The Farm Theater Dinner program entertains Kentucky and Tennessee farmers with a meal and a farm-friendly theater performance embedded with important health and safety messages. These casual events are also influencing behaviors: Results from a study show that farmers are thinking more about occupational safety and implementing precautions as a result of attending the forum-style dinners.

Organized by researchers in the UK College of Nursing, the Farm Theater Dinner program features a 10-minute play performed by local volunteer actors. The scripts are based on interviews and stories from real Kentucky and Tennessee farmers and contain implicit messages about occupational safety and health risks specific to the farming profession. While enjoying a collegial atmosphere and a night off the farm, farmers are presented with realistic safety and health topics, which they discuss as a group at the conclusion of the performance.

About Deborah Reed

Reed received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Public Health and Doctor of Philosophy degrees all from UK. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the UK College of Public Health. Reed is the director of the Occupational Health Nurse PhD Training Program, which is newly funded by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) as part of the Central Appalachian Educational Research Center. 

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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