Karen Dick, PhD, is principal investigator for the grant
The Graduate School of Nursing at UMass Medical School has been awarded a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration to launch an ambitious project to expand access to primary care in Worcester County. The Central Massachusetts Advanced Nursing Education Academic-Practice Partnership will increase the numbers of advanced practice nurses ready to work in health care facilities serving underserved communities.
“The need for new nurse practitioner graduates to expediently transition to real world practice requires preparation through partnerships with health care providers these communities rely on,” said Karen Dick, PhD, associate professor and associate dean for advanced practice programs at the GSN and principal investigator for the grant.
“Academic and practice partnerships like ours provide a critical structure to expand learning opportunities regarding access to health care, managing chronic diseases and addressing neglected health needs by substantially expanding real world training opportunities in caring for multiple chronic and complex comorbidities, including behavioral health, in underserved populations,” said Dr. Dick.
Graduate programs at the GSN prepare students for careers in health-care leadership and clinical practice with diverse populations. The grant will enable students in the Family Nurse Practitioners and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners tracks to conduct their clinical training at the same training sites throughout their entire graduate education. These long-term placements will ensure that the students understand the operations of the particular facility and the needs of the community it serves.
The academic-practice partnership will further help reduce health care inequities by better readying the pipeline of nurse practitioners highly qualified to provide primary care at sites where patients from medically underserved communities often receive care, such as federally funded community health centers like those partnering with the GSN.
The newly funded collaboration builds on the relationships between the GSN and the Edward M. Kennedy Health Center in Worcester, a federally funded community health center; the Reliant Medical Group in Worcester; and the Heywood Medical Group in Gardner. Additional support will come from UMass Medical School and clinical partner UMass Memorial Health Care via the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center, the Center for Faculty Development and the Center for Integrated Primary Care. The GSN’s Danielle Hebert, DNP, associate professor of nursing, and Anne Reardon will serve as the program and project coordinators, respectively.
Guided by a 15-member advisory board, the partnership will develop and implement curriculum specific to the health care needs of the underserved populations. There will be expanded learning opportunities for students in the Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner tracks. Students will be members of care teams comprising physicians, nurses, community health workers, medical interpreters and medical assistants. This interdisciplinary, comprehensive medical home model of care can be especially beneficial for patients with unmet health needs.
The doctoral nurse practitioner students will be supervised by faculty of the GSN and preceptors at each site. In a corollary effort to better equip preceptors to prepare NPs for practice in underserved primary care settings, 50 preceptors will participate in 33 hours of training during the course of the project.
“As a public graduate school with a mission of service to the commonwealth, the GSN has a strong track record of substantially benefitting underserved populations. Fifty-eight percent of our graduates who completed degree requirements between July 2014 and June 2015 are currently employed in clinical practice sites serving the neediest and most vulnerable patients in Central Massachusetts,” said Joan Vitello, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Nursing. “We are gratified that this grant acknowledges and supports our commitment to our local communities.”
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