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Nursing professor teams with filmmaker to produce video series related to opioid epidemic

Tamera Pearson (center) of WCU's School of Nursing reviews a script with local family nurse practitioner Jennifer Lewis during filming for a video series related to the opioid epidemic, while filmmaker Rod Murphy looks on.

A professor in Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing is teaming up with an award-winning documentary filmmaker to produce a video series related to the opioid epidemic that will enhance classroom instruction for the university’s nurse practitioner students and assist primary care health providers across the region.

WCU’s Tamera Pearson is working with Rod Murphy of Asheville to address some of the challenges involved in providing health care to individuals against the backdrop of the opioid crisis. Filming on the three-part series began the weekend of April 13-14 at WCU’s Biltmore Park site with experts on the topic, actors and scripts aimed at bringing the epidemic to life.

Primary care providers often are called upon to address their patients’ acute or chronic pain issues without contributing to the opioid problem, Pearson said. “Providers often have to tell patients who are requesting narcotic prescriptions ‘no,’ and that can lead to intense situations at times. This requires communication skills, knowledge of alternative treatment options and guidelines for pain management,” she said.

“Our hope is that these videos will add a new perspective and layer of content for training not only for the WCU students but for other primary care providers concerning the important pain management issues that they face in practice every day.”

Funding for the videos is being provided through a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration grant that was awarded to the School of Nursing.

Murphy has been the recipient of 14 awards for his documentary films, which have been screened at film festivals internationally as well as on TV and through internet streaming.

“It has been amazing working on this from the beginning,” he said. “All the information we are capturing is compelling and highly topical. Everyone seems to have been touched in one way or another by this issue, and hearing so many different perspectives from the experts is making these videos very impactful.”

The videos will be ready for viewing by late June and will be distributed at WCU and to the Mountain Area Health Education Center, also known as MAHEC, for use in training programs. Those interested in viewing or using the videos in their training programs can contact Pearson at

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