A $1.3 million federal grant will allow Georgia Southern University’s School of Nursing to put nurse practitioner students to work in paid trainee positions with five health care center organizations in southeastern Georgia.
The Advanced Nursing Education Workforce, or ANEW, program is funded through the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ANEW supports efforts to prepare advanced-practice nursing students “to practice in rural and underserved settings through academic and clinical training,” states the program’s webpage.
Specifically, this grant will pay registered nurses studying for advanced nurse-practitioner degrees at Georgia Southern to work with the five organizations, which are Federally Qualified Health Centers, during the students’ required clinical practicums.
The five organizations are East Georgia Healthcare Center, based in Swainsboro, but including its 10 clinics throughout the region; Christ Community Health Services in Augusta; J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center in Savannah; Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care in Savannah; and Appling Healthcare System/Southern Peaches in Baxley.
Student nurse practitioners who sign up for the program will agree to work at the centers for three to six months during their clinical experience, said Sharon G. Radzyminski, PhD., RN, chair of Georgia Southern’s School of Nursing.
“If they accept the traineeship money and do their practicum in one of these places, the hope is, and we would strongly encourage students to consider, working in one of these health clinics after they graduate,” Radzyminski said.
“These clinics work with rural and underserved populations, and they are in need of primary care practitioners,” she said. “They are looking for nurse-practitioner graduates.”
The grant spans two years, but $1.3 million is the total amount.
Paid trainees rare
Each student will be eligible for up to $15,890, covering tuition, books and other educational expenses and providing a stipend for the student’s work time, Radzyminski said.
Outside of the new program, nurses studying for their Doctorate of Nursing Practice can complete their practicum at any GS School of Nursing-approved site in the state, but are usually unpaid, and meanwhile pay tuition to the university, she said. Two nurse-practitioner tracks, Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, lead directly from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to the doctorate, and both require 600 hours experience in direct patient care before graduation.
The grant-funded, paid traineeships will be new, but the School of Nursing already had working relationships with the five clinic organizations.
“We’ve always had an affiliation agreement with these organizations … so they were very, very eager to participate in the grant funding, and they’re all excellent facilities for the education of our students,” Radzyminski said. “We’ve used them in the past, we’ve used their nurse practitioners as preceptors in the past, and they’ve provided really good experiences to our students.”
Preceptors are medical professionals who supervise and mentor students in clinical settings.
The university’s news release announcing the grant described it as a way to increase the number and readiness of family nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner students in Georgia. Of the state’s 159 counties, 109 are classified as rural, and 141 counties have fewer doctors than the state’s average per 100,000 residents, the release stated.
Pritham led effort
“There is a dire shortage of primary care physicians in Georgia, particularly for people living in rural and impoverished communities,” said Ursula A. Pritham, Ph.D., a family nurse practitioner who is the graduate program director and an associate professor in the School of Nursing.
Family nurse practitioners and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners “can help fill the gap,” she said.
Pritham served as principal investigator and director for the ANEW grant proposal. Her co-authors were Kathryn Hoehn Anderson, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Nursing Scholarship & Research, and Lee Broxton, scholarship and research specialist at the Center for Nursing Scholarship & Research.
Pritham says the traineeships will benefit the health centers as well as the students who learn there.
“ANEW will create a pipeline from nurse practitioner students to nurse practitioner employees in those settings,” she said. “Such a partnership will assist (Federally Qualified Health Centers) in their ability to access and hire additional primary care providers, particularly Georgia Southern graduates familiar with their practice setting, culture and processes, without an extensive start-up period.”
Although five health center organizations are involved, the project could potentially reach 14 or more locations. East Georgia Healthcare Center alone operates clinics in Swainsboro, Statesboro, Baxley, Metter, Mount Vernon, Reidsville, Soperton, Vidalia and Wadley and is set to open one in Millen. The Swainsboro-based organization also offers a mobile unit to reach patients closer to home.
J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center and Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care also provide psychiatric-mental health and behavioral health services, in addition to primary care services.