SPOKANE, Wash. — The Medically Indigent Rural Area Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Program at the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing has received a $25,000 grant to be used with $25,000 in external matching funds for Personal Digital Assistance devices.

Dr. Michael Rice, College of Nursing associate professor and MIRA program administrator, and Saleh Elgiadi, College of Nursing information systems manager, are the project directors.

MIRA students in clinical settings will receive one of 33 Palm computers and extensive training for the device. The grant is sponsored by Suffolk County Community College and Symbol Technologies, manufacturer of the PDA. The PDA is a handheld computer that enables mobile users to manage their schedules, contacts and other critical information, as well as allowing users to back up and exchange data with their desktop PCs.

MIRA has become a model of technology-based collaboration that allows graduate nursing students in rural areas to attend class remotely, obtain supervised hours required for licensure, and receive a master’s level psychiatric nurse practitioner degree without relocating. Using the PDA in the clinical setting, students will be able to evaluate drug-to-drug interactions and check medical databases instantly, ensuring patients receive the latest treatments, the most appropriate lab tests and the most effective medicines.

“Use of the PDA brings to the rural area up-to-date medical resources typically only available at an urban medical center,” said Rice. Students will link to a Web page dedicated to the MIRA program and download medical and drug-to-drug updates weekly. Use of the PDA allows students to immediately review medical issues relevant to the patient’s unique history and make a diagnosis using up-to-date research and information.

The MIRA program recently received the prestigious EDUCAUSE Award for Excellence in Information Technology Solutions and was also recognized for its “intriguing distance learning methods” by the International Society of Psychiatric Nursing. Funded by a $748,000 Health Resource Services Administration grant awarded in 2000, MIRA leverages technology solutions to provide graduate education where people live without displacing them or their families. To maintain program support, MIRA continues to seek funding from a variety of resources. The program has mostly recently received grants from Bank of America, Lilly, Forrest and Organon to improve patient/student interaction.

Established in 1968, the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/WSU College of Nursing is the nation’s first, oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. The College of Nursing offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional development course work to nursing students enrolled through its four consortium partners: Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, WSU 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 educational institution in the state. For more information about the Intercollegiate College of Nursing/WSU College of Nursing, visit the college Web site at nursing.wsu.edu.