$1M in Grants Addresses Shortage of Nurse Practitioner Faculty

Funds Will Allow Students to Treat Under-served Urban and Rural Patients

January 22, 2003

A combined $1 million in grants to the University of Rochester School of Nursing will help train nurse practitioners to address a growing crisis within the nationwide nursing shortage: shrinking nursing-school faculties. And in a unique arrangement with two local model sites, a key part of training will put nurse-practitioner students into the community to help treat minority and rural patients who are in most need of health care.

At Westside Health Services and Oak Orchard Community Health Center, students will help caregivers develop programs to reduce obesity in children, for example, or improve mental health screening.

Oak Orchard Community Health Center, which started as a volunteer movement serving migrant clients out of the back of a station wagon, now has three sites in Brockport, Albion and Batavia and a mobile health unit that provides care to 15,000 patients. Westside Health Services, Inc., an urban community health center at two sites, on Genesee Street and Lyell Avenue, provides medical and dental services. They offer translation services in Spanish, Russian, Somalian and Vietnamese and interpretive services for the deaf/hard of hearing. Half of its 11,000 patients fall under 100% of the Federal poverty guidelines, and about 20% are uninsured.

Because the students are in a new graduate program emphasizing both research and advanced care, they'll be able to apply the latest methods to help patients.

"They'll help all of us use technology better," says Jim Goetz, M.D., M.P.H., vice president of clinical affairs and the medical director at Oak Orchard. "That's where they're going to be especially helpful."

The three-year grants, totaling $1 million, are from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the federal government and the Helene Fuld Health Trust, HSBC Bank USA. They will support new M.S./Ph.D. graduate programs at the School of Nursing, preparing nurses for faculty positions. The lack of faculty for nurse-practitioner training is as much a crisis as the overall nursing shortage, says Professor Mattie Schmitt, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of Rochester School of Nursing. Nurse practitioners are RNs who have gone on to earn Master's degrees, giving them expanded roles in care. They can diagnose some illnesses, prescribe medications and are a growing presence in nursing homes and primary care.

"Nurse practitioner programs have expanded far faster than have the faculty for them," explains Schmitt. In part, that's because schools of nursing now expect faculty to have doctoral preparation, but much of the nurse practitioner programs have relied on master's prepared educators. Also, nurses who enter doctoral programs often have not been prepared as nurse practitioners. The innovation at the University of Rochester School of Nursing is to combine research and nurse practitioner education, so nurses can earn their M.S. and Ph.D. concurrently, in four and half years instead of six and a half.

Such training is invaluable for practicing nurse practitioners, as well, so they can use their expertise to develop new programs that improve treatment in health-care settings.

The combined programs cover six specialties: family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, pediatric neonatal nurse practitioner, adult nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and acute care nurse practitioner. The federal funding is designated for the primary care nurse practitioner combined programs (family, pediatric, and adult), which prepare nurse practitioners to provide care for populations not receiving sufficient care, including minority and rural patients.

"The response has been enthusiastic," says Schmitt. "I've been getting calls from potential students from around the country who tell me that they have found nothing else like it."

 The first full class for the new programs was admitted in September, with tuition assistance coming from the Helene Fuld Health Trust administered by HSBC Bank USA. ###

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