SPOKANE, Wash. — A $1.8 million grant awarded to the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing will bring health care outreach services to thousands of families, children and throughout Spokane County.

The Health Resources and Services Administration grant, the single largest grant awarded to the College of Nursing in its 34-year history, will fund the expansion of academic nursing for disadvantaged areas of Spokane County during the next five years. The HRSA grant will be coordinated and implemented through People’s Clinic, a community health clinic managed by the college’s nurse practitioners, faculty and student nurses.

The grant includes funding for one full-time family nurse practitioner to staff the new $300,000 Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a fully-equipped mobile clinic due to arrive in Spokane in September. Nurses, students and staff from the College of Nursing and People’s Clinic will travel with the Care Mobile treating children and families, like those seen daily at People’s Clinic at the YWCA. The Care Mobile, one of only nine in the country, will begin visiting four elementary schools twice a month bringing free dental screenings and primary health care services to schools with the highest need.

Health care access, services for at-risk populations and the ability to care for children and families are among the nation’s top priorities. These are equally important priorities for families living in Spokane County’s hometowns because more than one-third lack adequate health care access and are at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Specific elements of the grant are wide ranging and include: 1) improved access to primary care services by expanding People’s Clinic operations from four to five full days a week; 2) expanded outreach activities to target people living in high poverty census tracts and children receiving Federally sponsored free and reduced-cost lunches in Spokane County public and private schools; 3) improved continuity and coordination of health and social services received by clients by minimizing the gaps in health care delivery and duplication of services; 4) providing clinical opportunities for 50 Intercollegiate College of Nursing undergraduate students and 20 nurse practitioner students per year and tracking which students secure employment in agencies serving the poor and disadvantaged; and 5) design of a collaborative program with public and private schools to implement the national Kids Into Health Careers Initiative focused on increasing the number of qualified applicants from economically disadvantaged populations into health professions training programs.

“This grant takes our health care community outreach efforts to an entirely new level,” said Margaret Bruya, HRSA grant administrator and People’s Clinic co-founder. “We now have the funding and resources to expand clinic hours at our two clinic locations, bring basic and needed health care services to outlying hometowns and neighborhoods, and expand the rich learning environment for current nursing students through varied clinical experiences and for future nursing students through the national Kids Into Health Care Careers Initiative.”

Today’s nurses are learning to work with patients from diverse backgrounds. The HRSA grant will strengthen existing outreach efforts coordinated through People’s Clinic such as the Pediatric Outreach Project (POP) at Havermale, a Summer POP in August focused on sports physicals for middle school students, and existing and new collaborative projects leveraged with other community health care initiatives.

Individual grant components will be launched through a series of community events held over the next three months. Each event and component will include members of the community, school district, city and county representatives, donors, People’s Clinic management and College of Nursing faculty, students and professionals. When students and faculty return to the college in August they will be introduced to the scope of the project and invited to participate in the proposed activities.

“Providing an interesting and exciting way to look at health care, expanding primary health care services to the areas that need it most, and nurturing the collaborations that already exist builds healthier communities, neighborhoods and families,” said Bruya.

Of the 154 applications reviewed, the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions Office of Peer Review rated the college’s grant application and components at the top of the ratings scale. “The project is clearly designed to improve access to primary care and to serve as a model clinical training site in a medically underserved area,” the review stated. “The proposal is strengthened by multiple collaborative relationships with community agencies.”

Established in 1968, the Intercollegiate College of Nursing is the nation’s first, oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. The college offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional development course work to nursing students enrolled through its four consortium partners, WSU, Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University and Whitworth College. Each year the college educates more than 600 graduate and upper-division undergraduate students and prepares more entry-level nurses than any other state educational institution.