The College of Nursing and Health Professions at the University of Southern Indiana has received a four-year grant of more than $2 million to increase the number of registered nurses trained in primary care in rural communities.
The college will enter four academic practice partnerships to do so; those partnerships will be with Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center and the Dubois County Health Department in Jasper, and Gibson General Hospital and the Gibson County Health Department in Princeton.
In addition to enhancing primary care in rural areas, the grant — from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration — will allow clinical opportunities for USI undergraduate students.
“In our nursing curriculum, we plan to focus on population health, primary care in medically-underserved communities and interprofessional education and practice to prepare our students for these clinical experiences,” Dr. Ann White, dean of the USI College of Nursing and Health Professions, said in a press release.
Memorial will partner with USI for all four years of the grant project. The Jasper hospital serves Dubois and seven surrounding counties with 31 health care clinics.
In July 2019, Memorial will open an $8 million, 15,000-square-foot Family Medicine Center at the corner of 13th and Bartley streets in Jasper that will include a family medicine residency program — which trains family medicine physicians — in affiliation with the Indiana University School of Medicine.
“The opportunity to educate registered nurses in an outpatient primary care setting integrates well with our initiative to train the next generation of family physicians at our family medicine residency program,” said Dr. Stan Tretter, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Memorial. “Working side by side, this interprofessional collaboration of nurses and physicians is the future of high-quality health care for the patients of our community.”
Tonya Heim, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at Memorial, said the goal of the nursing partnership is to improve efficiency and outcomes.
“As a health care organization, we have certainly witnessed the shift of patient care from the acute to the ambulatory setting,” she said. “This partnership with USI will help define and implement a new model of care for RNs in primary care practice.”
Gibson General Hospital will enter the partnership with USI in year two of the grant program. The Princeton hospital is a critical access hospital and has four primary care clinics.
Donna Oeding, administrative director at the Dubois County Health Department, said nurses training at the health department will learn skills beyond primary health care.
“We hope to train nurses in what we consider to be public health,” Oeding said in a phone interview Wednesday. “That would look at prevention of diseases, environmental health, immunizations and those kinds of screenings (and) communicable disease control.”
The health department has five nurses on staff and Oeding considers them all “public health” nurses.
“What we do is just a little bit different than what they do in a primary care setting,” she said. “So, (it’s) prevention of disease, that population health ... that is going to become more and more important as health care evolves.”
She echoed Tretter saying that the nursing partnership seemed like a perfect fit for Dubois County.
“We understand if we help train professionals in the field, they will hopefully stay and work in our environments and our great communities,” Oeding said. “When we do that with physicians, it’s just as important to do that with nurses.”