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School of Nursing Receives Grant of More Than $1.4 Million

By Irvin B. Harrell

In an effort to address the high costs of hospital-based health care and their inadequacy in meeting the needs of veteran and underserved populations, faculty at Old Dominion University's School of Nursing recently received funding for a project that focuses on educating registered nurses (RNs) in primary health.

The Health Resources and Services (HRSA) grant for more than $1.4 million is designed to educate a veteran-focused, primary-care workforce. The three-year grant is titled "Veterans Education and Training as Primary Care Registered Nurses (VET-PRN)."

According to a 2017 study, only 8% of RNs in Virginia said they worked in primary care - which includes physician offices and primary-care clinics. Primary care includes health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling and patient education. This project will not only thread primary care content throughout the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, but will recruit, in particular, military veterans. Nationally, only 6 percent of nursing programs have primary-care content.

"Traditionally, prelicensure BSN programs minimally prepare graduates to work in primary-care settings," said Janice Hawkins, senior lecturer and the academic success coordinator of the project. "For example, the majority of our required clinical hours are in acute-care settings. This grant will help shift some of those hours to primary-care settings."

Besides recruiting military veterans, some of the key objectives of the project are to establish new academic-practice partnerships with primary-care clinics, develop and deliver content to prepare graduates to care for veteran/underserved populations in primary-care settings, and provide standardized patient and clinical experience to educate and evaluate student knowledge skills and attitudes. The project also will be open to current military and non-military students.

"This is an exciting time at the School of Nursing as we work to incorporate a variety of rich experiences for our students in community health and throughout the curriculum," said Jamela Martin, assistant professor and co-director of the project. "I believe that nursing schools need to serve as health and education resources to the communities in which we reside. This grant will help us to do just that, while also recruiting and training nursing students to practice to the full scope of their license on primary care teams."

Associate Professor Lynn Wiles, the project's director, noted that the University is "military-dense," making it a prime candidate to help families deal with stressors like deployments, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse.

"We are not a wellness-focused country," Wiles said. "Typically, you get sick and you go to the hospital. Our plan is to shift education to focus on population wellness."

The grant, which will start July 1, will "enable the school to draw from ODU's large military-affiliated student body and surrounding community to increase the percentage of military veterans who enroll in our prelicensure BSN program," said Karen Karlowicz, chair of the School of Nursing.

The project will start in the fall of 2019, with the school recruiting its first group from among its 80 accepted students, 11 of whom are veteran or active-duty military. The first clinical experiences for students will come in summer 2020, with a goal is to recruit between 12 and 15 students in the fall of 2020.

The Eastern Shore has been targeted as one regions where clinical experiences will take place because of the needs there and its ties with the school, Wiles said. In such areas the grant funding will come in handy for students.

"It will help us cover such things as tolls, gas and lodging for students," she said.

In addition to Wiles, Martin, and Hawkins, the other faculty members who collaborated on the project were Karen Higgins, clinical assistant professor and the primary care coordinator, and Beth Tremblay, lecturer and the community health coordinator.

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