SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing Assistant Professor Deana Molinari has been awarded a $695,933 grant to implement a rural nurse internship program for newly hired acute-care hospital nurses.

The three-year grant, awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, will allow Molinari, the grant project director, to develop and implement a program to prepare rural registered nurses to practice safely and confidently as generalists with specialist knowledge.

Sponsored by the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing, the program is and the first of its kind in the country and is expected to enroll 120 nurses and 105 hospitals within three years.

The rural nurse internship is an innovative year-long certificate that compliments formal nursing education programs through continuing education credit to further develop nursing skills, access information, and build professional relationships. Nurse preceptors and mentors working with the interns also earn continuing education units.

Education in emergency management skills and rural health issues, supervised practice with an expert nurse, a year-long professional relationship with an experienced rural nurse, and training from specialists in pediatric, psychiatric, obstetric, trauma, medical-surgical, emergency, and geriatric nursing will be part of the program. 

“The nursing shortage is particularly troubling for rural communities,” Molinari said. “Hospitals report some RN positions remain vacant for two years. Once a nurse is hired, retaining the nurse is particularly difficult when the nurse is new to rural practice. Directors of nursing tell of inexperienced nurses, without professional support, often quit during their first year of employment. Newly employed rural nurses often lack confidence and experience in the six subspecialties required of rural practice.” 

Experts contend that rural nursing is a specialty requiring more skills than available in undergraduate programs. As many rural hospitals are small, the number of experienced registered nurses available to train new employees is limited. Rural nurses work with minimal support and are expected to provide care for a variety of medical conditions and patient situations. During a single shift a nurse may deliver a premature baby, medicate a child with croup, assist with a motor vehicle accident, treat someone high on drugs, manage care of a heart attack victim  and assist a dying family member.

“A centralized, formal internship will benefit hospitals by educating nurses efficiently,” said Molinari. “The intensive support system available with the internship process should increase nurse confidence and improve patient care. Education and social support are tied to job satisfaction, so interns should remain employed longer than nurses who did not have an internship experience.”

The program will use the latest communication technologies allowing interns to remain on the job while learning new skills. Technology tools will include Internet-based coursework, videostreaming, wireless telephones and PDAs connecting interns with experts and resources within and outside their community.

Expert nurses wishing to act as mentors or preceptors, students nearing graduation and newly hired rural nurses can contact Molinari for application materials at dmolinari@wsu.edu.

Established in 1968, the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing is the nation’s first, oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. Celebrating 35 years of world class nursing education, the WSU Intercollegiate 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 700 graduate and upper-division undergraduate students and prepares more entry-level nurses than any other state educational institution. For more information about the College of Nursing visit the Web site at nursing.wsu.edu.

Note to editors: Several grants, totaling more than $1.57 million, including the Rural Nurse Internship, have recently been awarded to faculty and administrators at the Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing will allow the college to expand health care services locally and research opportunities throughout the state. For additional information regarding recently awarded grants contact Susan Nielsen, (509) 991-9151 or susann@wsu.edu.