The Clemson University School of Nursing has received a $2.7 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help increase the nurse practitioner workforce in six Upstate counties.
For the next four years, the grant will fund education for nurse practitioners students who apply for this opportunity within the School of Nursing, as part of the grant-funded program Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW). The first 13 students in the project were admitted this month.
ANEW Project lead investigator and nursing professor Stephanie Davis said this program will promote nurse practitioner primary care education while addressing the health care needs of diverse, rural and underserved individuals and their families in Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties.
“We at the School of Nursing are honored to receive this grant,” Davis said. “We know it will have an impact on the health care of six Appalachia counties and those who live there. This grant will help provide much needed care for rural areas.”
Nurse practitioners are able to manage the long-term and chronic health care needs of patients, and through this grant the goal is to increase access to primary care in rural, underserved areas of the Appalachian counties, Davis said.
There is not only a shortage of nurse practitioners in the state and in the nation, but also a maldistribution of care between urban and rural areas, Davis said. In South Carolina, there are 2,036 nurse practitioners, whereas only 290 are identified as working in rural areas, according to a South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce publication.
However, the program is not just about building the workforce of nurse practitioners in rural areas but building a more diverse workforce, Davis said.
“Patients with diverse backgrounds tend to feel more comfortable with health providers of diverse backgrounds,” she said. “It’s easier for the health care providers to build trust with the patients if they feel connected.”
The ANEW project team plans to enroll a diverse cohort of 26 full time nurse practitioner students as financially supported trainees and provide specialized educational support in telehealth, technology, and interculturally competent care of diverse, rural and underserved populations. Davis said while these students will complete the same number of hours (675) as typical nurse practitioner students, they will have 600 education hours dedicated to rural health curriculum.
Research shows that students who are educated in rural areas tend to work more in those areas after graduation, Davis added.
The team has identified and plan to address some of the barriers that keep nurse practitioners from working in rural areas, including a lack of available clinical preceptors and clinical training sites in rural and underserved areas.
To help overcome this barrier, the project team plans to establish 30-60 ongoing collaborative educational agreements with primary care practice sites serving rural and underserved, diverse populations. Within this program, the team will work with hospital systems such as Prisma Health–Upstate, a collaborator on this project, to find placements for nurse practitioner students in rural health facilities.
“We are proud to be working with the School of Nursing to help increase the nurse practitioner workforce in rural areas in the Upstate,” said Lori Stanley, chief nurse executive for the Prisma Health Central Region. “Our goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care. Helping educate nurse practitioners in rural health care is one way we accomplish this.”
This type of program was piloted in 2017 in collaboration with Prisma Health, formerly known as Greenville Health System, with seed grant funding from the Greenville Health Authority. The 2-year funding provided 10 scholarships for nurse practitioners from diverse or underrepresented groups.
Clemson of School of Nursing Director Kathleen Valentine said these programs are building upon a long history of educating nurses and nurse practitioners to care for diverse, rural and underserved populations.
“We prepare our students through a creation of a scholarly center of learning for nurses to advance scientific knowledge and evidence-based practice through both research and outreach,” Valentine said. “Our vision is to optimize the health and quality of life for the people of South Carolina, the nation and the global community. This grant is a significant catalyst for achieving that vision.”
The ANEW team also plans to implement six strategies to connect nurse practitioner trainees to primary care employment opportunities with diverse, rural and underserved populations after graduation.
“We hope to build the workforce by 26 graduates in the rural and underserved areas by the end of this four-year project” Davis said.
The School of Nursing, which is a part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, is embracing the college’s vision as part of a land-grant university through this type of work, said Eric Muth, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the college.
“The work embodies the mission of our college to build people and communities,” Muth said. “This grant will help train frontline health care practitioners to help communities the most in need.”
Working with project director Stephanie Davis from the Clemson University School of Nursing are Ann Wetsel, associate director of the school; Veronica Parker, alumni distinguished professor; Kathleen Valentine, director of the school; Lisa Miller, assistant professor; Anne Koci, named professor; Roxanne Amerson, professor; Mary Ellen Wright, assistant professor; and Lucia Gonzales, associate director of research for the school.
Prisma Health collaborators on this project are David Cull, a professor in the Department of Surgery, associate dean of graduate medical education at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine- Greenville and vice president of academic development for Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health; Lori Stanley, chief nursing officer for the Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital and Central Region; and Carolyn Swinton, senior vice president and chief nurse executive.
The grant totals $2,761,521 with zero percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the grant proposal authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.
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