Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


HRSA grant to support training of primary care nurse practitioners

HRSA grant to support training of primary care nurse practitioners

By Erinn Connor

One of the most pressing shortages in medicine today is in the field of primary care, where many people get treatment and management of chronic diseases. A new two-year, $1.4 million grant given to the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing aims to help close the primary gap, particularly in rural and undeserved communities.

Jenny O’Rourke, PhD, APN-BC, associate dean of graduate programs at Niehoff, received a two-year Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Advanced Nursing Education Workforce Grant to develop the Primary Care - Promoting Access To Healthcare (P-PATH) project, which will support the training of primary care nurse practitioners.

“This funding will really give us the resources we need to help our nurse practitioners provide care in rural and underserved areas that don’t have a lot of primary care options,” said O’Rourke. “It also helps us build relationships with preceptors and the organizations they’re associated with, to give students more options.”

The grant will partner nurse practitioner students in training at local sites such as the Hines VA, Cook County Health and Hospital Systems, Proviso School-Based Health Center, and Trinity Health System as well as the Appalachian Regional Health System in  and West Virginia. Students enrolled in this program will receive scholarship funding.

Another goal of the program is to help develop more nurse preceptors, who act as teachers and resources to students in the clinical environment. Having preceptors at a variety of locations with different patient populations can provide students with varying career options once they graduate.

Within primary care, there is also a shortage of health care workers with knowledge and expertise in mental health. The Health Resources and Services Administration have identified nearly 5,700 geographic areas containing 58 million residents as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas. In Illinois, less than 5 percent of working registered nurses are working in mental health and nationally only 5 percent of nurse practitioners are certified in psych-mental health.

This coincides with a desire from Niehoff students to receive specialized training in mental health. In 2016, a survey revealed that 82 percent of respondents felt that the school should offer a psych-mental health nurse practitioner program, and 47 percent were interested in further mental health classes within their primary care-focused program.

O’Rourke is also hoping that this grant will be able to kick start some telehealth training within Niehoff. Graduate nursing students don’t participate in simulation exercises like the undergraduate students, and telehealth is becoming a more common method of treating rural communities. Telehealth can involve diagnosing and treating patients over a video feed, monitoring health data via smartphone technology, and more.

“This is something we want to implement for our students, and now we have some resources to start doing so,” said O’Rourke. “Because these areas have such a high need level, the connections made between students and preceptors can help them get jobs and serve these communities even further after graduation.”

Find more information about the nursing practitioner program here.