USI Receives $2 Million Grant To Expand Nursing In Rural Primary Care

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The College of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of Southern Indiana has received a four-year grant of more than $2 million to increase the number of registered nurses trained in primary care to positively impact health in rural communities.

Funding is from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) division of Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) – Registered Nurses in Primary Care Training Program. HRSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The USI College of Nursing and Health Professions will create four academic practice partnerships with two rural hospitals serving surrounding counties with limited access to health care and two county health departments. In addition to enhancing primary care in rural areas, the grant will allow ample clinical opportunities for USI undergraduate students. “In our nursing curriculum, we plan to focus on population health, primary care in medically underserved communities and interprofessional education and practice to prepare our students for these clinical experiences,” said Dr. Ann White, dean of the USI College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Partnering with USI for all four years of the grant project will be Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center based in Jasper, Indiana. Memorial Hospital serves Dubois County and seven surrounding counties with 31 health care clinics. In July 2019, Memorial Hospital will open a new facility that will include a family medicine residency program in affiliation with IU School of Medicine.

“The opportunity to educate registered nurses in an outpatient primary care setting integrates well with our initiative to train the next generation of Family Physicians at our family medicine residency program,” said Dr. Stan Tretter, vice president of Medical Affairs and chief medical officer at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center. “Working side by side, this interprofessional collaboration of nurses and physicians is the future of high-quality health care for the patients of our community.”

Tonya Heim, vice president of Patient Services and chief nursing officer at Memorial, agreed that the goal is to develop a “change process” for utilizing registered nurses to improve efficiency and outcomes.

“As a healthcare organization, we have certainly witnessed the shift of patient care from the acute to the ambulatory setting,” said Heim. “This partnership with USI will help define and implement a new model of care for RNs in primary care practice.”

Beginning in year two of the grant, additional rural sites will be integrated in partnership with Gibson General Hospital, a critical access hospital in Princeton, Indiana, with four primary care clinics.

USI is also collaborating with the Dubois County Health Department, Gibson County Health Department and the Southwest Indiana Area Health Education Center (AHEC), which will work closely with USI across all four years to engage rural communities in expanding and strengthening the primary care nursing workforce.

“The HRSA grant will allow USI undergraduate nursing students to help create a model of providing care within primary care settings, which is very exciting,” said Dr. Tracy Kinner, clinical assistant professor of nursing at USI. “Plus, current registered nurses already working in this area will receive advanced training to increase skills in providing community-based primary care, which will improve outcomes for their patients.”

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