Nurse practitioner program brings students to rural clinics
The state of Texas faces a crisis in patient access to health care in rural areas. A new collaboration between Texas A&M University Health Science Center and CHI St. Joseph Health seeks to fill those gaps while developing a regional pipeline of highly qualified family nurse practitioners (FNPs).
“As a land grant university, we’re committed to preparing Texans to serve Texas,” said Cindy Weston, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, associate dean for clinical and outreach affairs and assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing. “This commitment lies at the heart of our Family Nurse Practitioner Program.”
Graduates of the College of Nursing’s existing program have carried out that commitment. More than half of the program’s graduates have secured positions in rural, medically underserved and health care provider shortage areas across our state.
Through the collaboration, leaders like Weston and Joe Hlavin, PA, director of advanced practice clinicians for CHI, hope to both expand the statewide impact of this program and give students the hands-on experience they need serving in rural communities.
The collaboration will place 10 to 20 second-year FNP students across 10 to 12 rural clinic sites, matching them with physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants. The program is a continuation of the Texas A&M Health Science Centers’ expanded partnership with CHI St. Joseph Health.
“CHI St. Joseph Health is the leading health care system regionally that provides care to a number of rural and underserved communities—including Navasota, Lexington, Hearne and Madisonville,” said Hlavin, who serves as clinical site coordinator for the program. “We’ll have an opportunity to be integrally involved in the training of these health care professionals while expanding access to care for our underserved populations.”
The true strengths of this program, said Weston, will lie in our organizations’ shared vision for leadership and selfless service in delivering care to those communities that need it most. Also, their experience in team-based care across both rural and urban clinics means budding FNPs will have a chance to practice to the full extent of their training.
As the central Texas region and clinics continue to grow, opportunities may also arise for innovative programs designed to meet the needs of more patients, similar to home-based visits program, she said. Part of the College of Nursing’s five-year plan also includes development of a psychiatric mental health-focused NP program, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.
More sources of funding may also open up for the program in the future. “We’re applying for a grant through CHI that would allow national placements for nurse practitioners,” Hlavin said.
Meanwhile, the College of Nursing has applied for the Health Resources & Services Administration Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) grant. The grant supports academic clinical partnerships to educate and graduate primary care NPs to practice in rural and underserved communities.
Story provided by CHI St. Joseph Health.