(July 14, 2004)
The School of Nursing
at East Carolina University has received a grant for $647,138 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand its family nurse practitioner concentration with the goal of increasing the number of primary-care providers in rural eastern North Carolina.
Coordinated by Dr. Alta Andrews, chairman of the Department of Family and Community Nursing at ECU, this three-year project will address the growing nursing shortage by training family nurse practitioners who live in rural areas of eastern North Carolina. Using advanced technology and a Web-based curriculum, students will be able to complete their coursework online.
In this project, registered nurses who hold bachelor's degrees in nursing will take courses to earn a master's degree in nursing and be eligible to sit for the family nurse practioner certification exam. The curriculum will focus on providing culturally competent care to minorities to help address disparities in mortality rates between whites and minorities. In addition, funds will be used to recruit and retain students in local communities and encourage them to continue practicing in these areas. The grant will also fund an additional faculty member at the School of Nursing to help with the project.
ECU already has online master's degree programs that prepare students for the family nurse practitioner exam. Andrews said this grant will allow this particular program to be improved and more self-paced to offer students more flexibility.
“The design of this program allows nurses who are currently working in medically underserved areas to advance their education without leaving their jobs or their communities,” Andrews said. “We are assembling a curriculum that is cutting-edge and rich with case studies and simulated patient encounters.”
Students will participate in discussions, lectures, and case study models using personal computers. Students will also use hand-held computers to log patient encounters, write clinical notes and access reference materials. Supervised clinical experiences will be arranged with preceptors in areas where students live.
Award-winning educator Jennifer Lang will be the primary family nurse practitioner faculty member working with this project. ECU awarded Lang the 2003-2004 Max Ray Joyner Award for Faculty Service through Continuing Education.
In North Carolina, certified family nurse practitioners work with a supervising physician to provide primary health care to patients.