Worried about ticks, stress, screen time? Ask the BOH nurse
Public health nurse Tricia McGean takes carole Fiorentino’s blood pressure at Town Hall. McGean is working ten hours a week for the Board of Health through a grant program.
Wondering how to help your child avoid some of the health risks of adolescence, or whether someone should look at that mole on your hand? Carlisle’s new public health nurse Tricia McGean is eager to help us learn more about whatever we need to know. She will be available to the town’s citizens and organizations ten hours weekly, thanks to a 12-month grant through the Community Health Network Area (CHNA) 15, a “partnership” of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, hospitals and community organizations.
McGean, who has a B.S. in Nursing, has worked at Emerson Hospital Home Care for 22 years, including for the past 12 years as the public health nurse for her hometown of Lincoln. There she enjoys contact with people, she says, as she conducts blood pressure and wellness and flu clinics and the Ask A Nurse outreach she has just introduced to Carlisle. On the third Monday of each month at Town Hall from 11 a.m. to noon), without appointment, McGean will be available to individuals to answer questions or talk about concerns (but not to diagnose or treat illnesses).
McGean’s service in Carlisle came about as part of Phase 2 of a joint effort of the Board of Health (BOH), Council on Aging (COA) and Planning Board, with the BOH leading the organizing.
Phase 1 grant
This Caring 4 Carlisle project began two years ago with a Community Health Assessment online survey and focus groups, conducted by the Gerontology Institute of the McCormack School at UMass Boston. While survey respondents included more women and seniors relative to the town’s population, the project identified several particular issues as concerns for many town residents:
• Stress for under-forty residents. One in five of the younger (21-39) adults who filled out the survey (most of whom are women) reported that most days are “very” or “extremely” stressful.
• Substance abuse. Half of those who filled out the survey reported a friend or family member affected by substance abuse (including alcohol).
• Suicide and domestic violence. One in three say friends or family have been affected by suicide and one in five say they know someone affected by domestic violence.
• Caregiving. 40% of respondents say they have cared for a “sick or frail” family member over the past year, and for almost half that care was “very” or “somewhat challenging.”
• Concerns about children. 40% of parents with children living in Carlisle reported concern about “too much screen time” (among Carlisle children in general). One in five said they worry about academic pressures, one in five about friendships and social connections among Carlisle children.
• Other concerns. Lack of public transportation, especially for older or disabled adults and commuters, safety for walkers and cyclists, fear of tick-borne illnesses and social engagement also emerged as issues, from answers to general survey and focus group questions about what interferes with “quality of life” in Carlisle.
Phase 2 grant covers three topics
This second phase grant of $30,000 will cover initial steps to address three areas of need chosen from the above conclusions: transportation, social isolation and concerns about ticks: (1) a “transportation option” service will subsidize Lyft rides for physically challenged or disadvantaged residents, at $10/trip; (2) a feasibility study will study the functions, space requirements and who would use an intergenerational community center; (3) a “pilot” period for a public health nurse (McGean, through a contract with Emerson) will explore needs and opportunities for public health education and service to town residents.
McGean and BOH Agent Linda Fantasia are actively seeking opportunities and connections to help people learn what they need to know about any health issue. Ask A Nurse is the first formal outreach, but McGean has also conducted COA blood pressure checks and will be a “resource” for follow up on emergency service calls.
She will also do a Teddy Bear tick check demonstration at a Gleason Library story hour, and hopes to find other ways help adults learn to protect themselves and their families. McGean understands the prevalence of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and other emerging tick-borne illnesses from her work following up on “reportable” diseases for Emerson Home Care. She observes these vary not only with the time of year but from town to town within the area.
McGean also hopes to coordinate educational efforts with the Carlisle PTO and school nurses. She was distressed by the dangers that a recent Concord-Carlisle High School presentation about vaping (smoking electronic cigarettes) made clear (see “Nicotine addiction resurfaces in teen vaping,” October 24.) She would like to help middle school parents understand more fully the risks of this addictive practice even to younger children – not only the danger of addiction and other negative health effects, but the signs that a child may already be using these devices.
McGean also worries about the unmet needs of residents with undiagnosed depression or other mental illness. The rural beauty of towns like Carlisle and Lincoln can mask sadness and isolation of such people, and she says that outreach to this population might prevent a possible suicide attempt.
McGean enjoys the connection with people the public health nurse role provides. “This is the perfect job for me . . . at end of each working day I [tell myself] this is what I should be doing.”
To contact Tricia McGean, leave a message or a question for her at the BOH (1-978-369-0283) or COA (1-978-371-2895) offices, or visit Ask A Nurse (next session will be Monday December 17 at 11 a.m.)