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Nurse practitioner project expanding

A family nurse practitioner works with a DNP student.
Family nurse practitioner Todd Smith, center, works with DNP student Girma Admasu, right, in 2018. Smith is a WSU College of Nursing preceptor and the Nurse Practitioner Faculty in Residence at CHAS Health. His appointment was made possible by the first WSU‑ANEW grant.

With the help of an earlier federal grant, the WSU College of Nursing is graduating nurse practitioners who are choosing to work in rural areas or with underserved populations.

Now a $2.8 million follow-on grant will expand the program, starting with financially supporting up to 40 full-time nurse practitioner students who are interested in that work.

The grant, called WSU-ANEW-2, will also go toward educating students, graduates and healthcare providers about caring for patients with substance use disorders. A third part of the grant will offer free continuing education programs for nurse practitioners.

The first WSU-ANEW (Advanced Nursing practice in rural, underserved Eastern Washington) grant was awarded to the WSU College of Nursing in 2017 by the Health Resources & Service Administration. It provided tuition reimbursement and stipends to nurse practitioner students who agreed to be trained primarily in rural health clinics or in clinics providing care to underserved populations.

The two-year, $1.3 million grant did what it was intended to do, said Janet Purath, project director and an associate professor at the WSU College of Nursing.

Of the first seven WSU graduates who took part in the program, six went to work in facilities that fell into three federal classifications: rural, health professional shortage area, or medically underserved area. The program enrolled 16 students in 2017-18, and 19 students in 2018-19.

“We know nurse practitioners are more likely to choose to practice in rural or underserved areas if they are trained in those places,” Purath said. “This grant makes it feasible for students to immerse themselves in clinical training in rural and underserved settings.”

The earlier grant also established a formal partnership between the WSU College of Nursing and CHAS Health, including the appointment of a Nurse Practitioner Faculty in Residence.

Nurse practitioners are seen as a key to meeting the nation’s healthcare needs, especially in rural and underserved areas that struggle to attract and retain physicians.

WSU offers three tracks in its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) graduate program, for family nurse practitioners and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners, as well as a DNP-Population Health.

Purath said the training in caring for people with substance use disorders included in the second grant will be offered in collaboration with CHAS Health. There will be updates to the DNP curriculum to better prepare future nurse practitioners to care for patients with such disorders, as well as continuing education courses for working nurse practitioners.

CHAS Health is also involved in the continuing education portion of the grant. Those sessions are designed to increase the number of nurse practitioners who provide real-world clinical training as preceptors. The number of preceptors available to help train nurse practitioners is one factor in the ability to meet a growing need for NPs.

Said Purath, “Assuring adequate clinical placements for nurse practitioner students is imperative to increasing the primary care workforce in general and for rural and underserved populations in particular.”

Applications for Fall 2020 entry to the WSU College of Nursing’s DNP program are now open.

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