UofL secures $6.5 million to enhance training for nursing professionals

Interim Provost Gerry Bradley, HRSA grant principal investigator Heather Mitchell, scholarship recipient Quinesia James, HRSA grant principal investigator Sara Robertson, School of Nursing Interim Dean Mary DeLetter

Grants awarded to support medically underserved communities

By Holly Hinson

The University of Louisville has received $6.5 million through two federal grants to help increase Kentuckians’ access to health care, particularly in underserved rural and urban areas. The UofL School of Nursing will use the funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop and implement an accelerated Licensed Practical Nurse-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (LPN-to-BSN) pathway in medically underserved areas of Kentucky. The second HRSA-funded project aims to increase the number and diversity of nurse practitioners to better address the health care needs of rural and urban underserved populations.

Kentucky has a severe shortage of health care providers, with at least some portion of 113 of the state’s 120 counties designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas, including parts of Jefferson County.

“These kinds of workforce pipeline grants are truly transformative and will make a lasting and tangible impact on the health and wellness of Kentuckians for generations to come,” said Interim Provost Gerry Bradley. “Our highly trained and committed nursing faculty are advancing the work that enables us to continue in our effort to expand access to high quality and diverse health care across the entire Commonwealth.” 

School of Nursing Interim Dean Mary DeLetter says she’s proud of the nursing faculty who worked tirelessly to secure these grants that benefit nursing students, the nursing profession and ultimately, citizens across the state.

“These programs support opportunities to enhance clinical training and bring superior nursing care to all corners of the Commonwealth, from rural Appalachia to urban Jefferson County to rural western Kentucky counties,” she said.

Of the total grant funding, $3.9 million was awarded to Heather Mitchell, associate professor and interim associate dean for the undergraduate and pre-licensure programs, and her team to develop an accelerated LPN-to-BSN pathway for nurses in medically underserved areas of Kentucky. The program is a statewide collaboration between the UofL School of Nursing and the Kentucky Community and Technical College (KCTCS) System, and will also include academic-practice collaborations with three large health systems across Kentucky — UofL HealthOwensboro Health Inc., and Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation. The grant will support scholarships for up to 83 students to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.  

“Our objective is to address the shortage of practice-ready registered nurses by increasing access to baccalaureate nursing education across Kentucky. This collaborative effort will provide an opportunity for licensed practical nurses to accelerate their pathway to RN licensure and meet workforce needs in medically underserved areas of Kentucky,” Mitchell said. “When I think about the impact we will have on nurses’ and patients’ lives, and for generations to come, knowing that we are making a difference out in those communities is so meaningful to me. This is why I do what I do.”

A second $2.6 million HRSA grant was awarded to Sara Robertson, associate professor and interim associate dean for the DNP and APRN programs, for “Advancing Diversity and Health Equity in the Primary Care and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Workforce.” Robertson is partnering with the UofL Department of Family and Geriatric MedicineFamily Health Centers of Louisville, and Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation. The goal is to increase the education of nurse practitioners from diverse populations, including underrepresented minorities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We want the nurse practitioner workforce to more closely mirror the population of Kentucky in terms of diversity and enable NPs from rural areas in the state to earn an APRN degree and provide high quality health care in their own rural areas across the Commonwealth,” Robertson said. “To be able to offer scholarships for students whose dream is to work with vulnerable and rural populations is impactful. This funding will help make their dreams of becoming a nurse practitioner a reality and at the same time, improve access to quality health care across the state of Kentucky.”

View the Flickr photo gallery from the Dec. 4 press conference. 

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