Nursing receives nurse practitioner HRSA grant

For Immediate Release:  Sept. 9, 2014

Tuition scholarships, payment of fees, stipends, and textbook stipends will support students studying to become adult gerontology primary care or family nurse practitioners to address the shortage of primary care providers in the Northeast and Greater Susquehanna Valley region of Pennsylvania.

White Coat Ceremony

BLOOMSBURG—Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Nursing has been re-awarded the Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources, and Services Administration Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship (AENT) Program. BU’s nursing department is among a group of 65 schools from across the country receiving an AENT award.

BU’s nursing department received an initial Health and Human Services, Health Resources, and Services Administration (HRSA) award of $638,436 in 2012, which supported 32 primary care nurse practitioner students who earned their Master’s in Nursing with certification as an adult nurse practitioner, adult gerontology nurse practitioner or family nurse practitioner. The department exceeds the goals of AENT funding with more than 90 percent of Bloomsburg nurse practitioner graduates practicing in rural regions of Pennsylvania.

The re-awarded grant of $691,872 will provide tuition, fees and textbook stipends to approximately 48 nurse practitioner students over the next two years (2014-2016). These awards are the largest in the program’s history.

“The fact that the program was re-awarded the grant is a testament not only to our excellent program but also to the commitment of Bloomsburg University’s Department of Nursing to providing an excellent education to future primary care providers,” said Noreen Chikotas, program director and the writer and project director for the grant.

According to HRSA, the current primary care workforce of physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the United States is inadequate to meet the growing demand for primary care services. An aging workforce, the increasing demand for preventive care, and an expansion of health care coverage from the Affordable Care Act is expected to widen the gap between demand and availability of primary care providers. The nation’s projected unmet need for primary care providers could be as large as 63,000 by 2015, and the HRSA grant is designed to help address this shortage by providing support to students in primary care nurse practitioner programs. HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving access to health care by strengthening the health care workforce, building healthy communities and achieving health equity. HRSA’s programs provide health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically disadvantaged or medically vulnerable.

“Students returning to school for their Master of Science in Nursing have little financial support for their endeavors,” said Michelle Ficca, chair of BU’s nursing department. “Increasing the number of nurse practitioners meets recommendations from the Institute of Medicine report, dovetails nicely with the Affordable Care Act, and meets the primary care needs of residents of the commonwealth. This grant eases the burden for students as they make the commitment to advanced practice nursing.”

Chikotas, a native of Shenandoah who obtained her nursing diploma from the Pottsville Hospital School of Nursing in 1988, said the scholarships help students focus on their education and provide the rural community with well-prepared primary care providers.

“We’re very excited and honored to have received this award twice. We have excellent faculty, a rigorous curriculum, outstanding clinical practicum sites, and a high pass rate on the national certification examination. Many of our nurse practitioner students are natives of Northeast Pennsylvania, specifically the Greater Susquehanna River region. It is the perfect fit for them to advance their education and continue to practice at an advanced level in the primary care setting where they have made their homes.”

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university, celebrating 175 years of excellence in 2014, serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.