Sen. Reed, URI announce $3.8 million in grants to College of Nursing

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Funds target workforce issues, patient care and healthy babies

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 4, 2012 –U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and the University of Rhode Island announced today that $3.8 million in federal grants have been awarded to the University’s College of Nursing.

Two grants address workforce issues under the federal Affordable Health Care Act by supporting URI’s efforts to prepare advanced practice nurses at the master’s and doctoral level. The third award provides funding to URI to continue its collaborative research with Women & Infants Hospital and Brown University on the relationship between delayed umbilical cord clamping and infant brain development.

Reed joined Peter Alfonso, URI’s vice president for Research and Economic development, Mary Sullivan, interim dean of URI’s College of Nursing, nursing researchers and faculty and students for the announcement.

A $686,000, two-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been awarded to Sullivan to provide financial support to qualified nurses who seek advanced education as primary care nurse practitioners. A key goal is to recruit minorities and military veterans prepared at the bachelor’s level into the program.

A three-year, $748,121 grant from the same federal agency has been awarded to Nursing Professor Patricia Burbank to support two new programs, the doctorate of nursing practice and an acute care nurse practitioner specialization to educate those who wish to provide advanced care to underserved elderly and minority patients. The Health Resources agency is the primary national agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.

The third grant, a $2.4 million, five-year award from the National Institutes of Health, has been awarded to Nursing Professors Judith Mercer and Debra Erickson-Owens to expand their research on

delaying umbilical cord clamping of healthy babies to determine if the practice improves brain health in infants.

“With the Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on primary care providers and the College of Nursing’s leadership in preparing advanced practice nurses for these roles, these federal grants come at a critical time,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds HHS. “URI does an outstanding job preparing the next generation of nurses and the scholarships and grant funding for new, advanced educational programs will help ensure we have a highly-trained and diverse health care workforce that can serve patients throughout the state. I congratulate URI, Dean Sullivan, and each of the principal investigators on these awards and will continue working to strengthen Rhode Island’s health care workforce and improve patient care.”

Alfonso said health care is a major economic driver in the state and nation, with it being a leading job creator in the state.

“We know that health care is a critical part of everyone’s lives, and we also know that it is central to the economy of our nation and state,” Alfonso said. “These grants illustrate the important roles of our College of Nursing in researching better workforce models, developing skills among those seeking to become advanced practice nurses, and delivery room practices that could lead to healthier babies worldwide.”

Sullivan said nursing faculty and students at URI should be proud of their college’s efforts to take a leadership position on the challenging health care issues of the day.

“Time and again, we emphasize that nursing practice has to be informed by the latest research to improve patient care,” Sullivan said. “All three of these grants allow us to continue to move nursing knowledge forward so the hospitals and other health care agencies that depend on our graduates will be able to draw on the very best.”

• Details of Dean Sullivan’s grant

Sullivan’s grant is aimed at minority students and veterans who possess a bachelor of science degree in nursing, but lack the financial means to seek a master’s degree to become a family or adult-gerontological nurse practitioner. The College of Nursing averages 120 graduate students per year, 45 percent of whom are nurse practitioner students who wish to practice in primary care. The federal funding will be used to support 24 students in year one, and 23 students in year two, who will each receive a stipend for all or part of the costs of tuition and fees, reasonable living expenses, and textbooks.

“A critical goal for us is to improve the quality and effectiveness of primary care services by educating and graduating an increasing number of primary care nurse practitioners, and increasing the number of minority and disadvantaged students in the programs,” Sullivan said.

The College will also strengthen outreach to military veterans who are also nurses and who wish to become primary care advanced providers by reaching out to the Providence Veterans Administration Hospital and the Newport Naval Education Center.

“More family nurse practitioners and adult-gerontological nurse practitioners will be on the front lines and able to use their knowledge and skills to improve health care quality and patient safety and meet the demand for primary care,” Sullivan said.

• Details of Professor Burbank’s grant

Through Burbank’s efforts, the University established the doctor of nursing practice degree to allow nurses to enhance their clinical and leadership skills for their work in hospitals, clinics and health care agencies. The new doctoral degree is the highest level of education for nurses in a clinical setting, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The program is designed to have an immediate impact on the quality of patient care and it is the only one of its kind in Rhode Island. A new post master’s degree acute care nurse practitioner specialty was also established to educate advanced practice nurses skilled in caring for complex, acutely ill patients across diverse settings.

Last year, URI’s College of Nursing enrolled three students in the doctoral program. The new federal funding will allow the doctoral program to enroll 10 students per year for the 42-credit program.

“The new nursing professional practice degree is a response to an identified need by the Institute of Medicine to prepare nurses with practice doctorates to work with doctorally prepared pharmacists, physical therapists and other health professionals,” Burbank said.

In addition to the coursework, nursing practice doctoral students are required to complete 500 clinical hours under the supervision of a URI nursing faculty member. They must also complete a capstone project that would address clinical issues that affect patient care.