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College of Nursing Awarded Federal Grant to Educate Family Nurse-Practitioner Students

Improving health-care access by strengthening the health-care workforce

Sacred Heart University’s College of Nursing has received a $372,873 grant to increase the number of culturally competent family nurse-practitioner (FNP) students committed to working as primary care providers in medically underserved communities.

The Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) grant was bestowed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is the second time SHU has received an AENT grant.

Susan DeNisco, professor in the College of Nursing’s graduate nursing program, said the grant will enable SHU to provide up to $22,000 annually to five eligible full-time graduate students and up to $11,000 to 18 eligible part-time graduate students enrolled in its FNP program. The funds can be used to cover tuition and fees.

DeNisco, who is project director of the grant proposal this year and grant recipient in 2014, said there has been a sharp rise in the shortage of primary-care physicians. The role of FNP was created more than 50 years ago to fill this gap and provide primary care services to those who need them most.

The grant is set up so minority students and students from disadvantaged backgrounds receive financial aid and clinical training in health-care centers in medically underserved communities and then find jobs in those communities. Students will perform their clinical rotations in Bridgeport at Optimus Health Care Inc., Southwest Community Health Center and St. Vincent’s Medical Center. DeNisco, who works at Southwest Community Health Center, said students who received financial aid through the 2014 grant and went through their rotations in Bridgeport are currently working full time in those facilities, proving the program’s success.

“This HRSA grant highlights the importance of educating nurse practitioners as primary-care providers to strengthen the health-care workforce,” said Julie Stewart, director of the FNP program. “Many of our FNP students are trying to balance work, school and care for their families, and they are thrilled to have this opportunity to receive funds to defray costs for advanced education. Another important point is that the grant helps to get nurse practitioners out into the primary-care workforce quicker, which is so desperately needed. To have received this grant for the second time demonstrates the successful management of the initial grant.”

The College of Nursing comprises undergraduate and graduate programs leading to bachelor and master of science degrees in nursing, a doctorate of nursing practice and registered nurse to bachelor and master of science programs, as well as certificate programs. The baccalaureate and masters’ programs in nursing are accredited through June 2020 by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and the doctor of nursing practice program is accredited through June 2018.

The HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving health-care access by strengthening the health-care workforce, building healthy communities and achieving health equity. The agency’s programs provide health care to people who are geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable.