Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

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Nurse practitioners go to the frontiers

Nurse practitioners go to the frontiers

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

Jenny O’Rourke, PhD, APNBC, 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 Health Care (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,” said O’Rourke. “It also helps us build relationships with
preceptors 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 West Virginia. Students enrolled in this program will receive scholarship funding.

Another goal of the program is to help develop more nurse preceptors. Having preceptors at a variety of locations with different patient populations can provide students with varying career
options once they graduate.

A shortage of health care workers with mental health expertise exists, too. In Illinois, fewer than five percent of registered nurses are working in mental health. Nationally, only five percent of nurse practitioners are certified in psych-mental health.

Coincidentally, Niehoff students want this specialized training. In 2016, a student survey showed that 82 percent of respondents wanted a psych-mental health NP program and 47 percent wanted more mental health classes in their primary care program. As a result, Niehoff will launch its psych-mental health program in fall 2019.


O’Rourke also hopes that this grant will start some telehealth training. Graduate nursing students do not 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 do it,” 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 at LUC.edu/p-path.