Nursing Pathways studentsWSU College of Nursing received three federal HRSA grants totaling $1.1M aimed at reducing health disparities in Washington, increasing access to qualified healthcare providers in rural and medically underserved and expanding our ability to prepare nurse educators. New funding for each grant builds upon previously documented successes.

The Nursing Pathways: Community Alliance for Health Workforce Diversity project aims to increase the retention, graduation, and NCLEX pass rates of 115 underserved, diverse BSN and RN-BSN students living in rural areas. The Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship Program (AENT) aims to support 26 Family Nurse Practitioners including those who are U.S. Veterans, Hispanic, or Native American/American Indian (NA/AI) enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at WSU. Dr. Debbie Nogueras, Academic Director and Associate Dean for WSU Tri-Cities Nursing programs, is the Primary Investigator for both grants, which will be completed over one year. The Nurse Faculty Loan Program is being managed by Dr. Lori Brown and is designed to expand our ability to prepare graduate nurses for careers as nurse educators.

The Nursing Pathways project builds on two previously funded HRSA workforce development grants. Originally launched in 2010, the grant was cited as a pipeline education program focused on recruiting first-generation college-bound students into the health sciences professions.

“Students from the initial grant indicated that they really needed increased peer support to succeed,” said Cindy Mackay-Neorr, the Project Administrator/Manager for the grant. “They wanted to know what it was like to be a nursing student and how others like them juggled work, family, and their nursing education. They wanted mentors and specialists who could help them through difficult nursing courses. Over the years we evolved into a small, tight-knit learning community that could provide support and resources for one another through graduation and the successful passing of their NCLEX exam.”

The second phase of funding granted in 2013 proved to be highly successful, either meeting or exceeding all outlined goals.

“In the last three years, we’ve graduated 50 BSN and RN-BSN students, supported 116 students in the BSN or RN-BSN programs, and we’ve worked with 300+ high school and pre-nursing students to prepare them for continuing their education,” Mackay-Neorr said.

The new $349,187 funding award will shift focus to the retention of students in both undergraduate programs and supporting them through earning their license and entrance into practice. This support includes continued peer mentoring; scholarship and stipends; assistance with NCLEX preparation for licensure; English as a Second Language (ESL) support, and assistance for students who are just beginning to meet the myriad of requirements needed to apply for the college.

The second HRSA grant totaling $341,000 aims to increase number of healthcare providers needed to care for Washington’s rural citizens and underserved population as primary care Family Nurse Practitioners. The AENT grant also provides framework for encouraging graduates to go back and work in rural, medically underserved areas, or federally designated Health Provider Shortage Areas (HPSA). Five full-time students will receive continued financial support and 21 new part-time students will receive scholarship support and stipends.

“Washington State struggles to maintain the number of qualified healthcare providers needed to care for its rural and underserved populations,” said Nogueras. “This allows us to begin creating a Nurse Practitioner workforce that reflects the communities we serve while reducing the debt for these students.”

As part of the program, new curriculum will be developed to ensure that these practitioners will be culturally, educationally, and experientially qualified to care rural, underserved, and vulnerable populations. And similar to the Nursing Pathways project, the program will offer FNP students with a range of support and resources, including regular mentoring with faculty, writing assistance, and access to employment opportunities in rural and underserved communities.

“Both grants are a major stepping stone for improving health and healthcare access in Central Washington,” said Nogueras. “It will take a few years to get these nurses and providers out into the community, but the long term impact will be well worth the wait.”

Finally, the third grant totaling $319,940 is for the Nurse Faculty Loan program, which is designed to expand the College’s ability to prepare graduate nurses for careers as nurse educators. Support from the funding will help meet the financial needs of graduate nurse educator students for tuition, fees, and books.

These projects are supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant D19HP19023, “Nursing Pathways: Community Alliance for Health Workforce Diversity” for $349,187, grant A10HP30090, “Advanced Education Nursing Traineeship Program,” for $341,000 and grant E01HP28794, “Nurse Faculty Loan Program” for $319,940. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

Contact: Alli Benjamin, Communications Director, WSU College of Nursing | 509.324.7340