Several grants totaling more than $1.57 million were awarded recently to faculty and administrators at the Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing in Spokane.

One of the grants will establish a rural nurse internship program, the first of its kind in the U.S. It will complement formal nursing education programs through continuing education, helping students to develop nursing skills, access information and build professional relationships.

The 3-year $695,933 grant will allow assistant professor Deana Molinari to implement a year of training for newly hired rural hospital nurses to help them address challenges unique to rural healthcare.

“The nursing shortage is particularly troubling for rural communities,” said Molinari. “Hospitals report some RN positions remain vacant for two years. Without professional support, inexperienced nurses often quit during their first year of employment. Newly employed rural nurses often lack confidence and experience in the variety of subspecialties required of rural practice.”

Awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, the project plans to reach 120 nurses and 105 hospitals in three years.

The 1-year internship program plans to educate nurses to meet these challenges via four elements:
• Education in emergency management skills, critical thinking and rural health issues
• Ready access to information from experts with specialty knowledge in pediatric, psychiatric, obstetric, trauma, medical-surgical, emergency and geriatric nursing
• Supervised hospital practice with an expert nurse
• A professional relationship with an experienced rural nurse to enable adjustment to rural practice.

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

Nurse preceptors and mentors working with the interns may earn continuing education units. 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.