Nursing Students Use Doctoral Project to Get Horned Frogs Outdoors

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RxPlore TCUFor their doctoral project, Rachael Taber and Julie Kennedy, both doctor of nursing practice candidates, combine their passions for mental health and the outdoors by encouraging fellow Horned Frogs to spend time in nature — right here on campus.

“The DNP project is a translational research project in which you take evidence-based interventions and apply them in a new innovative way,” Taber said.

The project is a branch of RxPLORE™ — Prescribing Life Outdoors and Real Exploration — founded by Vicki Brooks, assistant professor of professional practice nursing, and Gina Alexander, associate professor of nursing.

“Their project revolves around social prescriptions, a concept in which clinicians instruct patients to engage in more physical activity, eat more fruits and vegetables or be in nature. Our project — Exploring Campus Green Spaces for Nature-Based Health Promotion — aims to gain the student perspectives of spending time in nature,” Taber said.

The two doctoral candidates collaborated with TCU’s marketing and IT departments to revamp the interactive campus map to include three nature areas: the Paulette Burns Memorial Garden, Creative Commons and the Green Mall near the Neeley School of Business. When Horned Frogs visit these areas, Taber and Kennedy hope they enjoy being out in nature — as well as scan the QR code on the nearby lawn sign and answer a survey of questions about visitors’ experiences at the sites. When the survey closes at the end of January 2022, the two will begin working on analysis and publication of the results.

Avid outdoorswomen, Taber and Kennedy both grew up with an innate love for nature and outdoor recreation. As doctoral students, they also noticed growth in the mental health crisis.

“We had already decided that our project would blend both our passions — improving patient mental health outcomes and spending time in nature,” Taber said. “Our project ideas came to a breaking point as COVID-19 arrived on American shores. A tsunami bearing increased depression, anxiety and suicide rates has plagued the U.S population since that time.”

A little fresh air and connection could be the ideal social prescription.